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Belgium: Catholic Home Fined For Refusing Euthanasia

| by Nicholas Roberts
Belgian Parliament BuildingBelgian Parliament Building

A court in Belgium has fined a Catholic care home for refusing to let a doctor administer a lethal injection on the home's property.

Mariette Buntjens, 74, was staying at the Sint-Augustinus rest home in Diest and had terminal lung cancer, according to Religion News.

Doctors went to the home in 2011 to carry out Buntjens' euthanasia request but were then refused access to the home by staff at the care home.

Buntjens' relatives later had her removed from the care home, and she died days later in a private residence with medically assisted suicide being administered to her, The Catholic Herald reports.

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Buntjens' daughter, Nadine Engelen, claimed that by refusing to allow her mother to die within the walls of the Sint-Augustinus home, the facility caused Buntjens to experience "physical and mental suffering."

Engelen brought a lawsuit against the home in April 2016. The home insisted Buntjens' euthanasia death was only delayed a few days by the refusal to let her die there. But Engelen claimed her mother suffered severely as a result of this inaction.

"It was terrible for my mother. She was still very alert mentally," Engelen said.

The three judges on the panel determined "the nursing home had no right to refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection," according to Religion News. The home was ordered to pay a fine of $6,700 to the Buntjens' family.

Belgian law permits practitioners to conscientiously object to administering euthanasia, but does not have anything to say about institutions. The country legalized the practice in 2002, which is also available in neighboring European countries, including Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The Catholic Church is opposed to any form of assisted death.

Legalization of the practice has naturally caused considerable controversy. Critics say that the law is interpreted liberally, meaning euthanasia is practically accessible "on demand" with cases involving patients who are illegally "put to death" by doctors without having first given consent.

Numbers of euthanasia deaths have also increased over the past decade, from 235 in 2003 to 1,807 in 2013.

Sources: Religion News, Catholic Herald / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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