Belgium’s euthanasia program has become like a speeding freight train with no brakes. It’s not entirely surprising, as most euthanasia-friendly countries start out claiming that the procedure will be used only for the terminally ill, only to have it abused left and right (consider the Netherlands).
There have been two notable cases recently out of Belgium which caused international controversy. The first involved Belgian twin brothers who were deaf and had learned they were going blind as well. The next involved a Belgian woman suffering from depression. Belgium’s euthanasia law requires that the patient be terminally ill or in extreme pain, which was obviously not the case in either situation. These were people who were suicidal and needed help, not death.
Now, there’s more appalling news of yet another mentally ill person being killed under Belgium’s euthanasia program. This woman was suffering from anorexia and had been sexually abused by her psychiatrist. She was referred to a new psychiatrist, who granted her death wish.
Ann G. was clearly a complex woman. As early as 2007, she told journalist Kristien Hemmerechts that she wanted to commit suicide. When she appeared on the program, she had apparently already requested euthanasia. Going public gave her a brief respite from “the cancer in her head”. However, she was bitterly disappointed that the man who had victimised her was not severely disciplined. Then, overseen by a kindly new psychiatrist, she exercised her option.
Walter Vandereycken’s case is still under review by the authorities. However, some people have protested that he is being unfairly stigmatised over Ann G.’s death.
A cynic might suggest that Belgian psychiatrists are insensitive to conflicts of interest. One psychiatrist tips a sick woman over the edge; another helps to ensure that she will not be testifying in court against him. Dr Vandereycken is back at work seeing private patients; Ann G. is dead. But Belgians must be getting used to this sort of thing.
Ann was not the only patient whom this psychiatrist, Walter Vandereycken, took advantage of. And anorexia is a mental illness – often a severe one. Someone suffering from a mental illness, who is also suicidal, shouldn’t have a doctor standing by with a loaded gun ready. She should get help, which is presumably what Ann was seeking when she saw her new psychiatrist. Someone who is mentally ill, and says she has a cancer in their brain, cannot be trusted to make a life-or-death decision. But in Belgium, there are clearly doctors ready and waiting to take advantage of vulnerable people.
It’s sickening, to say the absolute least. And it’s a shining example of how the culture of death encompasses so much more than just abortion.