I was in disbelief when I read Michael Cook’s article “Belgian Catholic psychiatric hospitals ‘adjust’ their view of euthanasia”. I had to read the translated version on the Brothers of Charity order’s statement itself myself to see if this was “fake news”.
Thankfully, Brother Rene Stockman, the superior general of the Brothers of Charity order, spoke out and said he was devastated by the news and then did three things:
“(F)irst we informed the whole congregation that as general superior we cannot accept this decision, because it is going totally against our charism of the charity. Secondly, we informed the Belgian Bishops conference about the situation and I am in contact with the president, Cardinal De Kesel. Also the Nuncio is informed. Thirdly, we informed the Vatican and all the information has been given to the Secretariat of State. In the meantime we continue to offer our clear arguments why we can never accept euthanasia.”
Brother Rene also warned that:
“In reality, only a few brothers are still involved in the government of the organization, so the majority are lay-people. Yes, there was a lot of pressure, but pressure doesn’t mean that we have to capitulate”
“Indeed, the presence of the brothers is not nearly sufficient, but also secularization is also poisoning the congregation in Belgium.”
Ironically, this comes less than 2 years after a pro-assisted suicide UK news service documentary titled “24 and Ready to Die” about Emily, a depressed young Belgian woman, was released but ended with the young woman changing her mind at the last moment. Despite this, the documentary continued to support euthanasia even though one psychiatric “expert” who treated Emily was obviously wrong when she claimed that Emily’s suffering was so bad that it was “not compatible with life” and that her life did not have “sufficient quality”.
Emily is not the only one to change her mind. A 2014 Belgian study of 100 psychiatric patients asking for euthanasia showed that “8 postponed or cancelled the procedure”. The study’s authors rationalized that these cancellations were “because simply having this option gave them enough peace of mind to continue living”! (Emphasis added)
Fortunately in 2016, the American Psychiatric Association passed a resolution opposing assisted suicide for the mentally ill.
As at least 3 European countries now allow assisted suicide for people with psychiatric problems and other countries like Canada are debating similar measures. Ethicists now write articles like ”Euthanasia for Reasons of Mental Health” exploring the concept of including people with mental illness.
In the meantime, families like mine will continue to struggle with safety and treatment issues for our severely and chronically mentally ill relatives. We want real help for our loved ones, not assisted suicide or euthanasia. It is not compassionate, supportive or humane to have our loved ones “put down” like dogs.