The European Court of Human Rights has announced that it will take up a case considering whether Belgium wrongly allowed a woman to be euthanized on the grounds of “untreatable depression.”
Tom Mortier says that his mother, Godelieva De Troyer, suffered from depression for a majority of her life. Her doctor of over 20 years had refused her request for end-of-life treatment in 2011.
She then donated more than $2,800 to Life End Information Forum, an organization co-founded by oncologist Wim Distelmans. Shortly after, Distelmans agreed to carry out a lethal injection of De Troyer, doing so in April 2012.
Mortier is arguing that this donation created a conflict-of-interest.
The European Court of Human Rights will address whether Belgium violated human rights conventions by failing to protect the life of De Troyer and failing to carry out an effective investigation into her death.
Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International, which is representing Mortier, said international law continues to affirm a right to life rather than a right to die.
“We welcome the decision of the court to hear this precedent-setting case, the sad facts of which expose the lie that euthanasia is good for society,” he said in a Jan. 8 statement.
Mortier said in an ADF statement that his mother suffered from “a severe mental problem” and dealt with “depression throughout her life,” which had recently been worsened by a break-up with a boyfriend and feelings of distance from her family members.
“She was treated for years by psychiatrists, 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.”
The family was only notified of the procedure a day after De Troyer’s death, he said.
The psychiatrist who approved De Troyer’s euthanasia request, Dr. Lieve Thienpont, is already under investigation in another wrongful death allegation – that of Tine Nys, who was euthanized in 2010, two months after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome by Thienpont.
Thienpoint is believed by some experts to be involved in one-third of the nation’s psychiatric-based euthanasia cases.
Under Belgian law, euthanasia is permissible when there is a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.”
A Belgian report on euthanasia in 2016 -17 suggests that an estimated six people are euthanized daily in the country, where the practice has been legal since 2002.
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said these numbers reveal the devastating impact of euthanasia.
“The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we see the tragic consequences in this case,” he said. “Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living.”