Is the slippery slope at work in Belgium?
The “slippery slope” is often derided as a logical fallacy. But when one of the leading advocacy groups for euthanasia in Belgium posts an article entitled “Euthanasie: tijd voor de volgende stap, Euthanasia, time for the next step”, it’s hard not to think that it may not be so illogical after all.
The Humanistisch-Vrijzinnige Vereniging (Humanist-Liberal Association) complains that eligibility for euthanasia is far too restrictive. At the moment, only people with unbearable suffering can be euthanased. This leaves out people in irreversible comas, people with dementia, people with irreversible brain diseases and people who are under 18. This is manifestly unfair, the HVV contends.
However, this is not just a private initiative. In November Wim Distelmans, the chairman of the official Federal Committee on Euthanasia, released an open letter to Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo asking him to re-open a national debate on euthanasia. (At the time, Di Rupo was pulling a government together (this took 589 days) but now he is officially prime minister.) He and eight colleagues, like the HVV, have asked the Belgian government to update its 2002 euthanasia law. The proposed changes include these provisions:
- At the moment, advance directives are only valid for five years. This limit should be removed.
- Doctors who oppose euthanasia should be required to refer patients to a willing colleague.
- Assisted suicide should be permitted.
- It should be permitted to euthanase people with dementia who have written a living will.
- There should be no age limit for euthanasia. (A recent opinion poll claimed that two-thirds of Belgians approve of euthansia for minors.)
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