One of the last substantial barriers to increasing the number of euthanasia cases for non-terminally-ill psychiatric patients in Belgium seems to have crumbled.
A religious order in the Catholic Church, the Brothers of Charity, is responsible for a large proportion of beds for psychiatric patients in Belgium – about 5,000 of them. The international head of the order, Brother René Stockman, is a Belgian who has been one of the leading opponents of euthanasia in recent years.
Nonetheless, in a surprise move this week, the board controlling the institutions of the Brothers of Charity announced that from now on, it will allow euthanasia to take place in their psychiatric hospitals.
In a statement posted on their website the Brothers of Charity explain the policy shift. “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.”
Euthanasia for psychiatric patients has already happened dozens of times in Belgium. But from now on it will probably be easier for people suffering from schizophrenia, personality
disorders, depression, autism, or loneliness to access it. In fact, it will be hard to find an institution in Belgium where euthanasia is not being offered as an option.
Brother Stockman was stunned. “We deplore this new vision,” he told the media.
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