By Susan Gately - 15 November, 2013
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Europe (EPC-Europe) was launched on Wednesday, bringing together organisations and individuals from across the continent to campaign against the erosion of laws that protect people from euthanasia.
According to Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, the new campaign group will act as “a powerful voice” against attempts to change laws across Europe that protect people from euthanasia and assisted suicide.
“The UK, France and Germany are currently considering legislation, but overwhelming evidence from jurisdictions where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is legal, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, demonstrates beyond doubt, how quickly and easily euthanasia is extended to others, especially disabled people and elderly people,” Dr Fitzpatrick, Coordinator of EPC-Europe, said.
The group will highlight cases of euthanasia in Belgium including those of Mark and Eddy Verbessem, the 45-year-old deaf identical twins, who were euthanised by the Belgian state after their eyesight began to fail.
It will also highlight the case of Nathan/Nancy Verhelst, whose life was ended in front of TV cameras, after a series of botched sex-change operations.
His mother had said she hated girls, found her child ugly at birth and did not mourn his death.
Another case, that of Ann G, who had anorexia and who opted to have her life ended after being sexually abused by the psychiatrist who was supposed to be treating her for her condition has also provoked international outrage.
Speaking in Brussels at the launch of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Europe, Dr Fitzpatrick said the “lack of proper social care in Belgium as well as medical failures, mean non-terminally ill patients are left with no choice and suffer fatal consequences. Euthanasia has also begun in Belgium for organ donation, and for prisoners.”
EPC-Europe warns that Belgium is currently considering extending euthanasia to children.
In an open letter to De Morgen last week, sixteen paediatricians called for a liberalising of the Belgian law on euthanasia for children.
In response, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders issued a joint press release on the same day opposing the legalisation of euthanasia for minors suffering from incurable diseases, a norm that could be approved in Belgium after almost two years of debate in the Senate.
“Euthanasia of the most fragile persons is inhuman and destroys the foundations of our society. It is a denial of the dignity of these persons and leaves them to the judgment, that is, the arbitrariness of the one who decides,” they wrote.
In the open letter in De Morgen, the sixteen paediatricians argued that a gravely ill child, at the point of death, “quickly grows in maturity and his mental state allows him to reflect and to take a position in relation to life”.
The religious leaders countered in the letter published by the Cathobel agency, that they were “against the physical and moral suffering, particularly of children,” but added that “to propose that minors can choose their death is a way of falsifying their faculty of judgement and, consequently, their freedom.”
In the Netherlands, disabled new-born babies are euthanised under the Groningen Protocol, on grounds of “their perceived future suffering, or that of their parents”. This includes newborn babies suffering from spina bifida.
“If that had existed in the UK when I was born there is a possibility that I would not be alive now,” commented Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson of the British House of Lords.
EPC-Europe will highlight changing attitudes to disabled and vulnerable people, saying that those with physical and mental disabilities, elderly and poor people must be given the same protections as non-disabled, wealthier people.
In the Netherlands, the number of deaths by euthanasia increased by 64% between 2005 and 2010. In that time the population grew by less than 2%.
The country is now considering euthanasia for people with dementia despite huge concerns about proper consent.