Earlier this year a group of Catholic hospitals and clinics for the mentally ill in Belgium announced that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on its premises. The group is linked to a religious order, the Brothers of Charity.
Earlier this month Pope Francis issued an ultimatum: this must stop by the end of August. He also ordered the three Brothers who serve on the 15-member board to sign a letter stating that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”
Brother René Stockman, the head of the Brothers of Charity, is a Belgian but opposes the stand taken by the local members of his own order. He commented: “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection.”
A spokesman for the Belgian group acknowledged that it had received a letter from the Vatican but said that it had not yet responded.
The vast majority of patients seeking euthanasia in Belgium have a fatal illness like cancer or a degenerative disease. While the number of people euthanized for psychiatric reasons accounts for only about 3 percent of Belgium’s yearly 4,000 euthanasia deaths, there has been a threefold increase in the past decade.
Advocates say that people with mental health illnesses should be granted the same autonomy as those with physical diseases.
Tags: Belgium, euthanasia