Study: 10 yrs of Euthanasia in Belgium – Should Quebec Embark on This Lethal Journey

On the last day of public hearings on  » end of life care , » the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice invited Dr. Georges Casteur , former medical director of a neurological rehabilitation center in Ostend , Belgium(1976 to 2012) to present results of 10 years of euthanasia in his country. According to Dr. Casteur, safeguards and controls in Belgium do not provide complete protection. According to studies, one-third of patients “euthanized” were not able to give free and informed consent. Almost 50% of “euthanasia cases” were not reported to authorities. He described the steep slippery slope and “the culture of death” that is now installed in Belgium. He gave several examples of people “exhausted of life, or depressed » who were given lethal injections without prior notification to their family members. Recently a 44 year old patient named Nathan Verhelst ( » Nancy « ) unhappy with a sex-change surgery was euthanized on Sept. 30, 2013. In contrast, several of Dr. Casteur’s patients have changed their decisions to end their lives after talking with him or his colleagues. Last year one of his patients with severe quadriplegia, following an accident, was referred to a Brussels hospital for three weeks of rehabilitation after euthanasia was already programmed. After a chance conversation with a physician at the clinic, he changed his mind and is now enjoying life. He also described how pressures such as financial problems, family members, heirs, health care providers and administrators lacking hospital beds, can prevent people from making “free and unbiased decisions.” Also there is a lack of independence of the second consulting physician who is often a member of the same team with a goal of promoting euthanasia. He showed the similarities of the Belgian and proposed Quebec law. He argued that the same tragic consequences will happen if euthanasia is legalized in Quebec. Furthermore Dr Casteur is astonished that the word euthanasia is not used in the Bill 52. However there is one major difference: Belgian law is a federal law unlike the proposed Quebec law which is a provincial.

Also present were a couple from Lachine, Quebec, Jacques Ro:y and his wife Diane Bergevin, whose life has been challenged since 2011 by two tumors, one behind the left eye and another in her lung. Despite the severity of the diagnosis, they are both relieved by the good response to treatment. Mr. Roy discussed the potential dangers of a poor prognosis given by some doctors and a variety of external pressures that may endanger the health and survival of patients. He is concerned that the new law will « encourage people to look for the easiest and the fastest fix- the deadly needle. Administrators, government and some doctors will benefit. It is clear that it is more expensive to treat diseases. So even though there may be a chance to survive or live longer, some doctors will quickly ship patients off to funeral homes.  »

Dr. Paul Saba who is a family physician and co-chair of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice explained the fatal consequences of euthanasia and the loss of individual autonomy if Bill 52 is passed. Euthanasia also creates significant risks such as premature deaths in those with potentially reversible conditions. In Oregon, before the government agrees to pay the cost of medical care even for young people, cancer treatment must obtain a success rate of over 50% for 24 months. People who could potentially live a long time or even get cured from a cancer diagnosis must pay out of pocket or accept the free lethal cocktail.

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