Euthanasia is permitted in Belgium despite being illegal in the vast majority of EU countries.
A terminally ill Belgian woman was ‘euthanized’ by suffocation with a pillow by a doctor after lethal drugs she requested to be administered to her to voluntarily end her life proved to be insufficient, according to reports by Belgian media.
Local media outlets Sud Info and RTL reported on Wednesday that a 36-year-old woman from the Oupeye municipality in Liege opted to undergo euthanasia in March 2022, just months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and after her condition had severely deteriorated.
The process – which is legal in Belgium – involved a doctor and two nurses visiting the home that the woman shared with her husband and young daughter to oversee the procedure. The woman’s family members left the home as they did not wish to witness the death of their loved one.
However, according to Sud Info, the process did not go as planned. When the cocktail of drugs failed to have the desired effect, the doctor allegedly used a pillow to suffocate the woman to end her life. A post mortem examination showed signs of suffocation, 7sur7 reported.
“What happened is not euthanasia,” Belgian politician and doctor Jacques Brotchi said to RTL Info. “Such a definition of this terrible situation devalues the gesture of euthanasia, which accompanies a person to the end without pain.”
As of 2023, euthanasia is legal in EU states Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Spain, and is awaiting regulation in Portugal.
The deceased woman’s partner and child have filed a civil lawsuit against the medical professionals allegedly involved in the botched procedure, Sud Info said. Renaud Molders-Pierre, a lawyer representing the family, said that the bereaved are not demanding “heavy sanctions” but added that “if rules exist, it is so that sick rooms do not turn into crime scenes where anything can be done.”
Serge Douin, on behalf of the doctor at the center of the incident, said via Sud Info that “the nurses were distraught and they called the doctor, my client,” adding that “he only injected products to relieve the patient’s suffering.”
Image credit: Jens Mahnke