Can Western Europe’s Embrace of Euthanasia be Slowed?

Nov. 13 2017

In 2012, Wim Distelmans—the most prominent advocate for, and practitioner of, euthanasia in Belgium—killed a physically healthy sixty-four-year-old woman to “cure” her of chronic depression. Her son, Tom Mortier, was not informed of the procedure until after the fact, and has subsequently devoted himself to fighting his country’s lax “right-to-die” law, which has permitted the euthanizing of patients with psychiatric or other nonterminal illnesses. It now seems that Mortier has found a legal basis to challenge these laws in the European Court of Human Rights. Sohrab Ahmari writes:

Mortier and his lawyers contend that Belgian authorities failed to protect [his mother’s] right to life and that the failure was abetted by the country’s euthanasia law. The 2002 law, they argue, provides neither safeguards for the vulnerable nor sufficient accountability for providers. They have a formidable case.

Before [the law] was enacted, proponents assured the public that euthanasia would be rare. Yet the number of euthanized patients has risen steadily since legalization. In 2013, the number of cases rose to 1,807, up from 235 in 2003. By 2015, the total had reached 2,021. That’s according to data from the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee, the body that is charged with overseeing the practice. . . . The real figure may be much higher [as it seems that] many doctors are killing their patients without the main oversight body even finding out.

Proponents of the law also insisted that it would be applied only in terminal cases, i.e., patients who were nearing death and could no longer bear the anguish associated with their conditions. Yet the law opened the door to other kinds of cases. . . .

The number of patients euthanized for non-physical, non-terminal ailments has exploded since legalization. By the 2014-15 reporting period, 15 percent of total cases were non-terminal and 3 percent involved people with mental or behavioral conditions. There had been a “notable increase” in dementia cases, according to the control committee. That raises serious questions over whether physicians (or family members of the euthanized) are riding roughshod over the requirement that patients “requesting” euthanasia are “legally competent.”

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More about: Belgium, Europe, Euthanasia, Medicine, Politics & Current Affairs

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority