Belgium: Euthanasia and Palliative Care - strange bedfellows

This article was originally published on the HOPE Australia website.

By Paul Russell, the Director of Hope Australia.

Paul Russell

Paul Russell

In November 2013, I had the distinct pleasure of travelling to Brussels for the launch of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition - Europe at the EU Parliament.

The following evening my colleague and EPC International Chair, Alex Schadenberg joined Carine Brochier in debating Belgian euthanasia founders Dr Jan Berheim and Professor Etienne Vermeersch.

There was nothing veiled in what Bernheim or Vermeersch said that night. There's a subtle arrogance, it seems, when speaking with the knowledge that virtually a whole country agrees.

Bernheim told the audience that it was he who first went to London, to visit Dame Cicely Saunders, with the intention to bring palliative care to Belgium precisely because he saw this as a way to usher in euthanasia. Whether his actions and intentions were publicly known at the time, whether he is 'gilding the lily' or whether in fact the Belgian medical system fell for the trojan trap or went willingly is moot, I guess.

Whether as a direct result of Bernheim's actions or whether simply a matter of pro-euthanasia spin, we often here the claim that euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are simply additional, complementary tools in a palliative physician's toolkit. We are being asked here to swallow a falsehood: that caring can include killing.

Reflecting upon the Belgian experiment, we are also told that euthanasia and assisted suicide would actually improve palliative care. Precisely how is never explained. But the reality that palliative medicine in Holland and Belgium is up there with the best in Europe tends to add credence to such a claim.

Link to the full article