Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

A Bridge Too Far?

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

A Bridge Too Far?

Article excerpt

The 1997 recommendation of the Belgian Advisory Committee that euthanasia be regulated along with other medical decisions concerning the end of life was generally supported by the Belgian Senate and the broader population. Many considered the proposed "a priori" regulation of such decisions--as opposed to oversight after the fact--to be a landmark in the ethical and legal discussion of euthanasia and a unique Belgian contribution to the international debate.

Yet this breakthrough has now been set aside as strongly divergent opinions develop around the question of end-of-life decisions for incompetent patients. The very committee that was able to support consistent procedural regulation of decisions for competent patients has fractured into two camps: those who would now allow life-terminating actions for incompetent patients, and those to whom terminating the life of an incompetent patient really crosses a bridge too far.

It seems that some opinion leaders in Belgium accept that others may decide the fate of citizens in the name of "mercy." The latest report of the advisory committee even mentions the suffering of family members as justification for terminating an incompetent patient's life. …

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