Since Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, is modeled closely on the law adopted in Belgium in 2002 - a law that reserved euthanasia to "exceptional cases, under strict circumstances" - it is worth looking closely at what has happened there. One quickly becomes aware of serious problems including the ineffectiveness of safeguards, the increasingly loose interpretation of the criteria, and the extension of the law to other groups of people. Here are some enlightening examples:
- On February 13, 2014, Belgium legalised, without age limit, euthanasia for children and teenagers affected by incurable illnesses, and experiencing "unbearable suffering". It only took 11 years for the law to allow killing minors.
- In mid-April, the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine gave its support to involuntary euthanasia (without the patient's agreement) by declaring "that shortening the dying process by administering sedatives beyond what is needed for patient comfort can be not only acceptable but in many cases desirable".
- Over the last few years there have been several dramatic cases of people who were not at the end of life but who requested and were granted euthanasia. Here are some examples.: (1) 45 year old twins, born deaf and at risk of going blind; (2) a 44 year old woman battling anorexia; (3) a 44 year old transsexual, following a botched sex reassignment surgery; (4) a prisoner wishing for death; (5) an elderly couple (he 90 years old, she 89), after 70 years of common life, and who couldn't imagine living without one another. We also learn that 23% of lung transplants come from euthanised donors.
- The Belgian Senate approved euthanasia for people suffering from dementia.
- Between 2003 and 2012, the annual number of euthanasia cases increased from 235 to 1432. In the Flanders area, 47% of euthanasia cases are not reported and 31% are conducted without the patient's agreement (in 78% of those cases, the issue was not even raised with the patient).
- Even though the law forbids it, nurses conduct 22% of acts of euthanasia.
Another revealing example can be found in the Netherlands where the number of deaths by euthanasia more than doubled between 2003 and 2012, going from 1815 to 4188, or 3% of the total number of deaths. An ex-leader of the pro-euthanasia movement recently declared that there were serious problems with the law.
It is unrealistic to think that Quebec can legalise "medical aid in dying" (euthanasia) without the same abuses occurring here. One only has to look at the words of some prominent proponents of Bill 52:
- "The question of patients incapable of consenting to care, including children, will inevitably have to be examined. To us, a certain openness in these cases would not be abuse but rather a more complete response to the initial question" (Collège des médecins du Québec, Brief submitted to the Commission on health and social services, September 17, 2013).
- In a January 2014 interview for the radio show "The Current" (CBC), then Minister for Social Services and Youth Protection, Véronique Hivon, commented on the decision to extend euthanasia to minors in Belgium. After specifying that Bill 52 targeted only competent adults, she added: "It was important to do this to reach consensus, to be able to go forward. It was important to take this first step"...