Belgium refuses to prosecute doctor who killed depressed woman, son heads to top European court
STRASBOURG, France – ADF International filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights Tuesday on behalf of Tom Mortier, who wasn’t informed of his mother’s death until the day after a doctor killed her via lethal injection for being depressed. The case, Mortier v. Belgium, focuses on the right to life and the right to family life, which are both protected under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Belgian authorities have refused to pursue Mortier’s case, which opens the door for him to apply to the top court in Europe and is now his only opportunity to obtain justice for the loss of his mother. The court’s findings on doctor-prescribed death will impact 800 million Europeans in 47 countries if the court agrees to take the case.
“The big problem in our society is that we have apparently lost the meaning of taking care of each other,” said Mortier. “My mother had a severe mental problem. She had to cope with depression throughout her life. Psychiatrists treated her for years, and eventually the contact between us was broken. A year later, she received a lethal injection. 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 the hospital contacted me to ask me to take care of the practicalities.”
When Belgium first legalized doctor-prescribed death, officials made promises that it would be well regulated with strict criteria; however, 15 years later, the number of cases each year has increased 780 percent from when it was first legalized. Belgium went further in 2014 by legalizing child euthanasia.
Cases of worsening eyesight, hearing, and mobility have been considered “unbearable suffering” for the purposes of qualifying patients for euthanasia in Belgium. Lawmakers have proposed limiting freedom of conscience and silencing doctors who are opposed to carrying out the killing of such patients. Most recently, in the Netherlands, a proposed bill would allow euthanasia simply for being “tired of life.”
“We will be judged as a society by how we care for our most vulnerable,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, who represents Mortier before the European court. “International law has never established a so-called ‘right to die.’ On the contrary, it solidly affirms a right to life—particularly for the most vulnerable among us.”
“The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we now see the tragic consequences,” Clarke added. “More than five people per day are killed in this way, and that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living.”
ADF International, a global human rights organization advocating for respect of the right to life and for freedom of conscience, offers more information through a white paper titled “The Legalization of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.” It documents the harmful consequences of existing euthanasia laws and practices, showing that no so-called “right to die” exists in international law. The white paper aims to equip those involved in the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide across the world and is a part of the Affirming Dignity campaign.
- Pronunciation guide: Mortier (More-TEE’-ay)
ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
# # # | Ref. 44739