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BELGIUM APPROVES BILL ON EUTHANASIA The Belgian parliament has approved a Bill on euthanasia.  Belgium and the Netherlands are the only countries in Europe legislating to give terminally-ill patients the right to die.

INCLUDES RESPONSE FROM PHYSICIANS AND CATHOLIC BISHOPS



bulletBelgium Bishops Slam Euthanasia Bill
bulletBelgian Docs Unhappy About Proposed Euthanasia Law

 

bulletBelgium approves euthanasia bill

The Belgian parliament has approved a Bill on euthanasia, making it only the second country in Europe to legislate to give terminally-ill patients the right to die.

The House of Representatives approved the Bill 86 votes against 51 with 10 abstentions. The Senate approved it last year.

The vote came after two years of committee discussions and largely reflects a split between the governing majority of Liberals, Socialists and Greens versus the opposition Christian Democrats and right-wing parties.

The Bill defines euthanasia as an act practised by a third party intentionally ending the life of a person at his request.

Under the Bill, this can be practised by doctors only on patients who have reached the legal adult age, 18 in Belgium, and at their specific, voluntary and repeated request.

The request must be written, and if the patient is not capable of writing, it must be written by another adult of his choice.

A patient seeking euthanasia must be in a hopeless medical situation and be constantly suffering physically or psychologically, the measure says.

If the person is not in the terminal phase of his illness, the Bill says, his doctor must consult with a second doctor, either a psychiatrist or a specialist in the disease concerned. At least one month must pass between the written request and carrying out the act.

Opponents say the measure gives doctors and patients too much freedom.

SOURCE: REUTERS: Thursday 16th May 2002

bulletBelgium Bishops Slam Euthanasia Bill


Fri May 17,12:37 PM ET

By PAUL AMES, Associated Press Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Belgium's Roman Catholic bishops on Friday condemned a parliament vote bringing this predominantly Catholic country closer to legalizing the euthanasia of terminally ill people.

If the bill approved Thursday is signed into law, Belgium will be the second country allowing patients the right to die under certain conditions. The Netherlands, Belgium's northern neighbor, was the first.

The bishops said Friday the bill sets a dangerous precedent by placing the "quality of life" ahead of existence itself. Some 75 percent of Belgians consider themselves Catholic, according to government figures.

"All this is directly opposed to the fundamental respect for human life that lies at the heart of a society based on human dignity," the bishops said in a statement.

After two years of parliamentary debate, the House of Representatives on Thursday authorized euthanasia under limited conditions. The Senate approved the bill last year.

The opposition Christian Democrats vowed to challenge the law at the European Court of Human Rights. The bill defines euthanasia as an act practiced by a third party intentionally ending the life of a person at his or her request.

Such mercy killings can be practiced by doctors only on patients who have reached the legal adult age of 18 and who have made a specific, voluntary and repeated request, the bill said.

A patient seeking euthanasia must be in a hopeless medical situation and constantly be suffering physically or psychologically, the measure said.

If the patient is not terminally ill, the doctor must seek a second opinion from either a psychiatrist or a specialist in the disease involved.

bulletSOURCE : http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020517/ap_on_re_eu/belgium_euthanasia_8

bulletBelgian Docs Unhappy About Proposed Euthanasia Law

Thu May 16, 227 PM ET

By Justin Sparks

BRUSSELS (Reuters Health) - Belgian doctors are opposed to a new law expected to be passed by the country's lower house of parliament this week that will make it the second nation in Europe, after the Netherlands, to decriminalise euthanasia.

The government sought advice from a wide spectrum of medical experts when drawing up the bill, which the Senate approved last October. But doctors from the Belgian Medical Association told Reuters Health they are concerned the law will permit euthanasia in cases where a patient has an incurable disease but still has years to live.

"Doctors know that this law is simply flawed and find it totally unacceptable that individuals who are not terminally ill will also be eligible for euthanasia," said Marc Moens, vice-chairman of the Belgian medical chamber, ABSYM.

A survey conducted by the Artsen medical journal in Brussels last year showed that 75% of doctors opposed the new law, with 8 out of 10 claiming that they would be unwilling to carry out patients' requests for euthanasia.

Under the proposed legislation, any patient requesting euthanasia must be conscious when he makes his demand and must repeat his request. In the case of someone who is not in the terminal stages of illness, three medical opinions must be sought.

Every mercy killing must be reported to a federal commission that would regulate the practice and bring prosecutions where necessary. The commission will consist of eight physicians, four lawyers and four palliative care experts.

"This will be a typically bureaucratic and unworkable Belgian commission, because 50% have to be pro-life members and the other half pro-euthanasia, while to bring a prosecution the law requires a two-thirds majority," said Herman Mys, professor of medical law at Leuven University.

By comparison, the Netherlands has five "euthanasia commissions" for its different regions with only three members a physician, a lawyer and an ethics expert.

"Even if the law were a success and doctors were persuaded to report their activities then the commission would simply not have the manpower to deal with all the cases," said Professor Mys.

If the annual estimate of 1,400 cases of requested euthanasia in Belgium were all reported, then it has been calculated that the commissioners would have to process more than four cases a day.

The Liberal Party, which is the driving force behind the bill, is adamant that the law will work, and has been strongly supported by pro-euthanasia groups such as the Belgian ADMD.

The right-to-die debate was rekindled in Europe recently when British motor neurone disease patient Diane Pretty died after losing a fight in the British and European courts to end her life with her husband's help.

bulletSOURCE: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020516/hl_nm/euthanasia_doctors_1
 
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