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Euthanasia Extends Its Scope. The Race Down the Slippery Slope
Rome, (Zenit.org) Father John Flynn, LC. Restrictions on the use of euthanasia are increasingly bent or simply eliminated. The most recent example of this is in Belgium.

Prison inmate Frank Van Den Bleeken is now cleared for assisted suicide. In prison for nearly 30 years, Van Den Bleeken asked to die as he is unable to overcome his psychological problems that have led him to commit a series of violent crimes, the Associated Press reported September 16.

Ironically Belgium does not permit the death penalty, but a court granted the petition for Van Den Bleeken’s death.
News reports noted he had not been given adequate psychological treatment during his imprisonment.
The approval was confirmed by an appeals court just recently, the German Deutsche Welle news service reported September 29.
Last year 1,807 people opted for assisted suicide in Belgium, an increase of 27% over the total for 2012.

Earlier this year Belgium became the first country to allow assisted suicide without any age limit, extending it even to children.

Not to be outdone Australian doctor and euthanasia promoter Philip Nitschke called for Australian prisoners jailed with no prospect of release to be given the option of euthanasia, the Australian ABC news service reported September 29.

Nitschke under investigation

A longtime campaigner for the legalization of euthanasia Nitschke is currently under investigation by the police in a number of cases of deaths. According to a September 28 report by the Sydney Morning Herald authorities in every state of Australia are investigating his role in nearly 20 deaths over the last three years.

He is also facing imminent expulsion from the Australian Medical Association.

England’s Daily Mail newspaper criticized Nitschke’s move to set up a London office of his pro-euthanasia organization, Exit International.

Members pay a fee to access online information on suicide techniques and they can also attend workshops run by the organization, the September 28 article explained.

While Exit International limits membership to those over 50 years of age the Daily Mail said that no proof of age is required to access the online information, which includes a guide to suicide.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, of the anti-euthanasia group Not Dead Yet, told the newspaper that Exit International is a suicide club and that “Nitschke is not only playing on people’s emotions, but he is profiting from them.”

Earlier in the year Nitschke was strongly criticized for his role in the death of Nigel Brayley, 45, who died in May after taking the euthanasia drug Nembutal.

A friend of Brayley, Kerry O’Neil, found e-mails on his computer in which Nitschke admitted knowing Brayley was not terminally ill, but nevertheless, supported him in his decision to commit suicide, the ABC reported July 3.

O’Neil said Nitschke should have recommended that Brayley, who had lost his wife in 2011 and more recently his job, seek counselling.

Another case mentioned by the ABC was the suicide of Joe Waterman, 25, in January this year. He had accessed online the euthanasia handbook of Exit International by simply ticking the box that he was over 50.

In another article published two days later the ABC reported that the president of the Australian Medical Association's West Australian branch, Michael Gannon, said that  Nitschke did not provide the appropriate duty of care in the case of Brayley.

Opinion writer Andrew Bolt wrote a scathing criticism of Nitschke in an article published July 7 by the Herald Sun newspaper. He accused him of deceiving the media by concealing critical information about the health of some people he helped to commit suicide.

Not terminally ill

Switzerland is another country where the rules on assisted suicide are being relaxed. Earlier this year the Swiss group Exit changed its statutes to extend its services to elderly people who are not terminally ill, the Guardian newspaper reported May 26.

The change was criticized by the Swiss Medical Association. Its president, Dr Jürg Schlup, said that healthy elderly people could come under pressure to end their lives.

Switzerland is increasingly attracting people from other countries who wish to commit suicide, the New Scientist reported. In an August 20 article they observed that in the Zurich area alone in the period 2008-12 some 611 people came there to die. A quarter of the cases involved people with non-fatal conditions.

We must not forget or neglect the elderly, Pope Francis urged when he spoke last Sunday to a gathering of the elderly and grandparents.

How many times, he said, do we discard older people in a way that is like a form of hidden euthanasia.

“We discard children, young people and older people under the pretence of maintaining a ‘balanced’ economic system, the center of which is no longer the human person, but money,” he exclaimed.

We need a society, he said, “which measures its success on how the weak are cared for.”
Judged by that criteria the trend to extend euthanasia to ever wider categories of people is indeed a sign of failure.