From the time of its initial report and subsequent reports, the Commission for Control and Assessment acknowledged its inability to act going on to say that it is not capable of assessing the proportion of declared cases of euthanasia compared with the number of real cases which have actually taken place” Yet, in 2002 the stated objective of bringing euthanasia out of the shadows was a major argument made by those in favour of its legalization.
Initially legalized under very strict conditions, euthanasia has gradually become a very normal and even ordinary act to which patients are deemed “to have a right”. In the face of certain high profile cases, the evident relaxation of the very strict conditions has caused many reactions but also a total absence of any sanctions on the part of the Commission and a very conciliatory silence from the political establishment has given rise to a feeling of impunity on the part of some concerned medical practitioners, and to a feeling of powerlessness in those worried about where things are leading.
Several neonatologists have drawn up a procedure which enables euthanasia of premature newborn infants or those presenting a handicap in one of the three following instances: either the infant has no chance of survival, or it is deemed to only have a very mediocre quality of life, or the outlook is poor and it is felt that the infant will suffer unbearable pain.The Groningen Protocol [Dutch infanticide protocol] caused quite a stir in Belgium and a great many medical practitioners are of the opinion that since a “therapeutic” abortion is possible right up to the day before birth in the event of the child being handicapped, euthanasia of newborns ought also to be allowed under the same conditions.
My first anti-euthanasia article, published in Newsweek in 1993, warned that one day euthanasia would be coupled with organ harvesting “as a plum to society.” Over the years, I was chided as an alarmist. But it didn’t take the Belgians long after legalizing euthanasia for doctors to do just that, and now they brag about it at medical symposia. Most of the euthanized and harvested were not terminally ill, but disabled. One had a mental illness.
I can think of few things more frightening than giving a disabled person, who may be struggling to find meaning in life, looking to organ donation as means of finding seeming greater “meaning” in their death. And what such crassly utilitarianism will do to society’s attitudes toward people with serious disabilities and mental illnesses is also on my “worry front burner.”