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How one organization is trying to turn the tide against euthanasia in Europe

2015-05-02

Chemistry lecturer Tom Mortier never found the debate about euthanasia very important. When Belgium legalized the practice in 2002, he didn't think twice.

That was until he received a message that changed his life: His mother, who had been suffering from severe depression, was euthanized. He wasn't notified until afterward.

His mother had mentioned that she was considering euthanasia, but he assumed that because she was physically healthy it would never happen.

ROGER KISKA
Senior Counsel, ADF International
"She approached her family physician of 20 years and asked for permission to be euthanized, and he said that the request was premature. She went to a psychiatrist who also rejected the request.”

Finally, she donated a large sum of money to one doctor's clinic and had the procedure performed. 

Her son was horrified, and he is suing the Belgian government with the help of an organization called ADF International. 

ROGER KISKA
Senior Counsel, ADF International
"It just shows that the procedural safeguards in Belgium are not there. FLASH So we are suing the Belgian government, because they are not protecting vulnerable people from this procedure.”

Belgium has very permissive euthanasia laws: In addition to those who suffer physically, even children and the mentally ill can be euthanized.  

Thousands of people have had the procedure completed, though the commission that reviews every case has never referred one to a prosecutor.

Kiska and ADF International focus on legal challenges, but he said that a broad coalition is required to roll back the detrimental effects of euthanasia laws. 

ROGER KISKA
Senior Counsel, ADF International
"There's a large role that NGOs and social movements play. Not just in euthanasia but in every aspect.”

Euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal in several European countries, including: Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. It's currently being debated in France and the United Kingdom.

Thousands have been euthanized in Belgium since the practice was legalized in 2002, and the numbers have trended upward for years.


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