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When facing death, seek the God of life

As many would be aware, Queensland continues to debate the merits of euthanasia legislation. As such, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review how other countries have fared in introducing similar legislation.

Belgium introduced their legislation in 2002. In fact, they were the second country to do so, after the Netherlands. Under Belgium’s law, a patient must be legally competent and conscious at the time of seeking to end their life. The request must be voluntary, well considered and repeated. The disease must cause constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering, resulting from a “serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident”. Where a patient is not expected to die soon, the doctor must consult a second physician and allow at least a month from the request before euthanasia takes place. Doctors are free to perform euthanasia if the conditions are met or they can refuse if they do not wish to undertake the procedure. Sadly, since 2014, Belgium has allowed minors to be helped to die as well as adults, if they are terminally ill and in great pain and if they have parental consent. In 2016 and 2017, three children younger than 18 were put to death by euthanasia in Belgium. In addition to a 17-year-old suffering from muscular dystrophy, a 9-year-old who had a brain tumour and an 11-year-old with cystic fibrosis also died by euthanasia in that two-year period.

But recently, several countries and organisations have begun to criticise Belgium’s euthanasia law. UN legal officer for ADF International (Alliance Defending Freedom – a Christian advocacy group), Giorgio Mazzoli, said, “Sadly, over the years, we have seen Belgium’s euthanasia law spiral out of control.” One case cited by Mazzoli’s statement referred to a 23-year-old female whose life was “tragically ended by euthanasia due to her battle with mental health issues.” There is also the case of Tine Nys which saw three doctors dragged before the courts.

Tine Nys died on 27 April 2010, surrounded by her family. The 38-year-old had suffered a childhood of severe psychiatric problems and had tried to take her life when she was younger. But her sisters, Lotte and Sophie, argued that she was not incurably ill, as Belgian law requires, but suffering from the stress of a broken relationship. She had not had psychiatric treatment for 15 years and had been given a diagnosis of autism before her death, for which she had not yet been treated, they said. The doctors involved were prosecuted but ultimately found not guilty of the crime of unlawfully poisoning a person.

ADF International is supporting a case that challenges the euthanasia law in Belgium at the European Court of Human Rights. The petitioner, Tom Mortier, suffered the loss of his mother from lethal injection in 2012. Despite the fact Belgian law requires that the person must be in a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated”, Tom’s mother was physically healthy and her treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years did not believe that she satisfied the legal requirements of the law. Nonetheless, she was euthanised in 2012 by an oncologist with no known psychiatric qualifications. Tom said, “Neither the oncologist who administered the injection nor the hospital had informed me or any of my siblings that our mother was even considering euthanasia. I found out a day later when I was contacted by the hospital, asking me to take care of the practicalities.” Although this sounds shocking to us, informing the family if an adult wishes to be euthanised is not legally required in Belgium.

God cares about those who cry out for death and wish to end their suffering. God gives purpose in life, even to the end. Only God knows what is best and His timing, even in the matter of one’s death, is perfect. Therefore, I submit that more resources should be directed to palliative care instead of introducing powers to interfere in what should be God’s final decision on when to end a person’s life.

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