Tom Mortier

How legal euthanasia changed Belgium for ever

Tom Mortier
By Tom Mortier
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Co-authored with Steven Bieseman.

May 22, 2013 (Mercatornet.com) - In 2002, Belgium became the second country in the world after its neighbour, The Netherlands, to legalise euthanasia. Over the next decade our country has become a living laboratory for radical social change. With many other countries debating legalisation at the moment, now is a good moment to stand back and take a good long look at the results.

In 2002 Belgium was governed by a coalition of Liberals and Social Democrats. The slightly more conservative Christian Democrats had been excluded. With blue as the colour of the Liberals and red of the left-leaning Social Democrats, the press dubbed it the Purple coalition.

The Christian Democrats took a dim view of euthanasia, but they were in opposition. The Purple coalition was free to pass an euthanasia law based on the view that an individual should always have a “free choice” to end his life. In absolutizing individual self-determination the left and the right found common ground.

The law states that doctors can help patients to die when they freely express a wish to die because they are suffering intractable and unbearable pain. The patient needs to consult a second independent doctor; for non-terminal illnesses an independent psychiatrist must approve. In practice, however, this independence is irrelevant. Belgium is a small country and compliant doctors are easy to find.

A string of recent cases leaves no doubt that the euthanasia law has fundamentally and drastically changed Belgian society. Last year 45-year-old deaf identical twin brothers who couldn’t bear the thought of going blind were granted euthanasia. Doctors granted their request because they “had nothing to live for” anyway. According to the doctor who gave the lethal injection, it was not “such a big deal.”

In another case, a 44-year-old woman with chronic anorexia nervosa was euthanised. Then a 64-year-old woman suffering from chronic depression was euthanised without informing her relatives. The doctors defended their decisions by explaining that these extreme and exceptional cases were legitimate because all legal conditions were met.

Euthanasia is hardening from a medical option into an ideology. Belgium’s euthanasia doctors even believe they are being humane because they are liberating people from their misery. Fundamentalist humanists go further and describe euthanasia as the ultimate act of self-determination. The opinion of the patient’s family has no weight whatsoever. A doctor is entitled to give the mother of a family a lethal injection without offering any explanation to her children. Euthanasia is being promoted as a “beautiful” and positive way to die. Doctors are transplanting organs from patients who die in the operation. (This is said to make their lives meaningful.) The law may soon allow children and patients with dementia to be euthanised.

Since 2002 opponents of the law (like us) have been marginalised as rigid and heartless conservatives who feel ill at ease in a post-modern, pluralistic and progressive society like Belgium. (1) The Christian Democrats have repudiated their traditional values and support the law. Questioning it has become taboo because the absolute right of the individual might be violated.

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There are still some significant critics, apart from the Catholic Church. The Belgian philosopher Herman De Dijn is an outspoken opponent. He describes Belgium as a “sentimentalist society” in which traditional values have been drastically minimized and replaced by subjective preferences. (2) A sentimentalist society no longer subscribes to ethical values other than those which are related to the search for individual happiness (autonomy and no-harm). Communal responsibilities and moral institutions are being discarded in the search for purely individual well-being; interdependence and connectedness are ignored.

De Dijn feels that this is the nub of the problem. A human being is not a bundle of individual feelings, opinions and preferences, but part of a species, a member of mankind, a vital link in the moral ecology where every individual has a unique symbolic value. Respect for human dignity includes not only respect for personal choices but also for connectedness to loved ones and society.  

Supporters of the euthanasia regime repudiate this secular critique -- as well as the baneful influence of the Catholic Church. (3) However, their ideology of absolute self-determination has become so strong that it is morphing into a theology, a quasi-religious fanaticism. They have invented comforting symbols and rituals to express their beliefs. A self-determination card describes a patient’s final wishes so that the social services know what to do in a terminal illness. There are centres where people can ask questions about how euthanasia can be performed. There is indoctrination in self-determination for doctors and volunteers who wear their euthanasia enabler certificates as badges of honour.

Nonetheless, we are hopeful. Surely it must be possible to convince the Belgian public that something is terribly, terribly wrong when politicians are debating whether parents can legally have their children put down. It is not humane and it is not scientific. There is no scientific scale of unbearable suffering. With advances in pain relief, euthanasia is not even needed.

The key insight of the green movement is that all living beings are interconnected – even us humans. Especially us humans. The job of politicians is to protect this connectedness. Otherwise, why should parents care for their dependent children? Why should children care for dependent parents? Once we lose the sense that each of us is bound to one another with invisible cords of fellowship, we will end by killing all those who are burdens on society. And at some stage, all of us are going to be burdens.

Euthanasia does not threaten religious dogmas. Churches will stay open no matter what happens in hospitals and nursing homes. What is threatened is humanism. Instead of standing strong, arms linked together as brothers and sisters, the dogma of self-determination separates us, places us in bubbles of isolation, and then offers to kill us – if we want. In today’s Belgium all of us are at risk.

Tom Mortier and Steven Bieseman teach in Leuven University College, in Belgium. They would like to thank Emeritus Professor Herman De Dijn for valuable discussions and Sylvia Statz for advice about translating the text.

Notes

(1) Burms A. and De Dijn H., De sacraliteit van leven en dood, Pelckmans Uitgeverij nv, Kalmthout, (2011), S. 71-89.

(2) De Dijn H., Taboes, monsters en loterijen, Uitgeverij Pelckmans, Kapellen (2003), S. 23-25.

(3) Burms A. and De Dijn H., De sacraliteit van leven en dood, Pelckmans Uitgeverij nv, Kalmthout, (2011), S. 91-99.

Reprinted with permission from Mercatornet.com

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

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By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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