OXFORD, England (CNS) — Belgium’s Catholic bishops have deplored a parliamentary vote paving the way for sick children and dementia patients to choose euthanasia.
“The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to,” said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, bishops’ conference spokesman.
“While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly. This is why we reject it and believe palliative care offers a better solution,” he told Catholic News Service Dec. 16.
He said church leaders would continue to back a silent vigil near Parliament in Brussels to highlight the dangers, but he expected the legislation to receive final approval early next year.
The Belgian Senate voted Dec. 12 to approve the legislation, which would allow euthanasia for dementia patients and children “capable of discernment” and “affected by incurable illness or suffering.”
Meanwhile, the bishops’ conference president, Archbishop Andre Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, said all main faiths in Belgium were united against the proposed measure, adding that he regretted mass protests could not be mobilized as effectively as in neighboring France.
“We don’t easily raise our voices here, but this is something extremely important, and I hope the political class will be persuaded to reflect,” Archbishop Leonard told KTO Catholic television Dec. 14.
Euthanasia was made legal in Belgium in 2002. In 2012, the Belgian Health Ministry recorded more than 1,400 deaths from euthanasia, a 25 percent increase over 2011.
The law restricts euthanasia to terminal patients, but researchers say reasons for patients choosing euthanasia have included blindness, anorexia and botched operations.
In a November open letter, 16 pediatricians backed the proposed bill, claiming children facing illness and death “develop a great maturity very rapidly.”
However, the claim was rejected by professors from the Catholic University of Leuven, who said in a Nov. 29 statement the concept of “unbearable suffering” should not be left solely to doctors and psychiatrists.
Meanwhile, a Catholic palliative care unit director, Catherine Dopchie, told KTO Dec. 14 that suffering was “subjective and not measurable.” She said the legislation risked depriving patients of hope and making medical staff “intolerant and incompetent.”
“Euthanasia is a cheap technical way to pay off the account of human suffering,” the oncologist said Dec. 14. “A doctor who believes he is capable of predicting human suffering may be even more dangerous than a doctor who believes in aggressive therapy.”
During the heated debate in the Senate Dec. 12, Sen. Philippe Mahoux said euthanasia was already practiced on terminally ill children at some Belgian hospitals. He said giving children the right to “die with dignity” would be the “ultimate gesture of humanity.”
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it without youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: