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Belgian Catholic hospitals to allow psychiatric patients to be euthanised

3 May 2017


​Giving somebody a lethal injection is not a treatment for their mental or physical ills. Image: Shutterstock. 

A Catholic religious order that cares for about 5,000 psychiatric patients in Belgium has said that it will allow euthanasia in its hospitals, despite opposition from its superior.

The board controlling the institutions of the Brothers of Charity announced this week that it will allow euthanasia to take place in their hospitals, which provide a large percentage of beds for psychiatric patients in Belgium. In a statement, the board explained the policy shift, saying: "We take seriously unbearable and hopeless suffering and patients’ request for euthanasia. On the other hand, we do want to protect lives and ensure that euthanasia is performed only if there is no more possibility to provide a reasonable perspective to treat the patient."

Pro-life and pro-euthanasia?

Bizarrely, the chairman of the board, Raf De Rycke, an economist who has worked with the Brothers of Charity for years, denied that the ethos of their hospitals had changed ."We have not made a 180 degree turn," he told De Morgen newspaper. "It is not that we used to be against euthanasia and now suddenly are for it. This is consistent with our existing criteria. We are making both possible routes for our patients: both a pro-life perspective and euthanasia."

Euthanasia for psychiatric patients who are not terminally ill is already happening in Belgium. However, the change in direction from the Brothers of Charity means it will now be difficult to find a hospital in Belgium where patients suffering from schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, autism, or loneliness cannot be killed by euthanasia.

A tragedy

The news caused particular surprise as the superior of the congregation, Brother René Stockman, is one of the leading opponents of euthanasia in Belgium. He told MercatorNet that the decision is unacceptable, and goes "totally against our charism of the charity". He said that only a few brothers are left on the board of the hospitals, and that he is in contact with the Belgian Bishops Conference and the Vatican about the situation.

Euthanasia advocates in Belgium expressed their delight at the capitulation, with a member of the Belgian Parliament, Jean-Jacques De Gucht, gloating that "the last relics of the paternalism of the shepherd have been replaced by individual self-determination".

Abandoning people to death

"Places in Belgium that should be considered safe sites such as Catholic institutions aren’t safe sites at all," Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. "What is euthanasia? It is allowing one of your doctors to lethally inject one of your patients," he said. "They’re gonna allow one of their doctors to kill a psychiatric patient ... Giving somebody a lethal injection is not a treatment for their mental or physical ills. It is a way of abandoning our people to death."

News in brief:

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