Euthanasia: Leuven prosecutor investigating ‘dozens of cases’

Euthanasia: Leuven prosecutor investigating ‘dozens of cases’
Credit: Belga

The public prosecutor in Leuven is investigating cases of euthanasia which may not have been carried out according to the legal procedure, De Standaard reports.

The information comes from a letter sent anonymously to the paper’s editorial desk, and while the fact of the investigation was confirmed by the prosecutor’s office, no details were available from official sources.

We will only do that once the investigation has been completed and the facts have or have not been established,” said spokesperson Sarah Callewaert.

Family members were only made aware of the investigation when they were interviewed by investigators.

In the letter they write, “Our family member passed away two years ago, and we were told that euthanasia was presumed to have been carried out without the doctors informing us or following the necessary procedure. This is a very traumatic experience for us.”

The Belgian law on euthanasia does not insist that family members be made aware of a patient’s desire to bring an end to their life. However, various medical associations strongly advise it.

Two doctors are named in the letter, both of whom work closely with care homes of the Emmaus group. Director of the group, former CD&V politician Inge Vervotte, confirmed that the two physicians work with the homes, but stressed that the cases in question were not related to care home residents.

The investigation began more than a year ago, she told De Standaard, and both doctors informed the group at the time. The cases concerned were patients from the doctors’ private practice, Vervotte said.

Professor Wim Distelmans, chair of the national committee on euthanasia, said he was contacted in the summer of 2019 and asked if he might be willing to give his advice on the matter. Since then he has heard no more, he said.

His committee ought to be informed in every case, but that isn’t always the reality, he explained. “Some doctors are happy to admit that,” he said.

Even when doctors submit the proper paperwork, not every case comes to the notice of the committee.

What doctors write down, we naturally take for granted as true,” he said. “Apart from that, and rightly so, everyone is free to file a complaint with the public prosecutor's office if they think they have reason to.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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