Euthanasia has moved in and out of public health debates for the past couple of decades. The ethics around it are decidedly murky and laws surrounding euthanasia differ. For example; the Netherlands provides legal euthanasia for adults who are ‘suffering unbearably’, physically or psychologically. In the USA, Oregon condones it for adults with terminal illnesses. In Australia, euthanasia is not legalised. However, Belgium provides euthanasia for anyone, including children, who is tired of their suffering and wants out.
Belgium has the most relaxed euthanasia laws in the world. It is not just the terminally ill who are approved. Two cases have emerged recently, with rather surprising candidates; Dateline has followed them during their last days. Simona de Moor was a healthy 85-year-old. However, she suffered terrible grief when her daughter died from an unexpected heart attack. Although physically fine and with a mind as sharp as ever, Simona found the sadness too crushing to bear. She stated: “It’s driving me mad and I don’t want to go to a mad house, I want to die… The moment they broke the news to me, five minutes later I knew.”
Peter Ketelslegers is a 32-year-old father of two and suffers unbearable cluster headaches. They last up to three hours, several times a day, and although the headaches won’t kill him, there is no known cure. “It’s like a knife being stuck in my head. It spreads through my whole head. I hit it to get rid of the pain,” he said. “If there’s no other solution than just an injection, and gone…do I have to say it? Euthanasia.”
One of Belgium’s most outspoken advocates of euthanasia, Dr Marc Van Hoey, says he has performed over 100 euthanasia procedures (8,700 cases have been approved since 2002). He is matter of fact in his support. “A lot of elderly people are not really suffering in the narrow meaning of the word, but one plus one plus one plus one makes a whole,” he stated. “Their age gives them no future, there is nothing left anymore.”
However, these lapse laws have (of course) sparked dissent and controversy. Theo Boer, a former employee of the Dutch Euthanasia Commission, reviewed about 4,000 euthanasia cases before resigning last year. He believes that the legislation is encouraging euthanasia unnecessarily, and with limited safeguards. “Euthanasia and assisted dying increasingly are being used for patients that have months or years or even decades to live,” he said. “There were several cases where we did accept the case, where I had sleepless nights. Something is going terribly wrong.”
The case of Tom Mortier’s mother Liefe is an example of this. Liefe suffered from severe depression and despite 40 years of psychiatrists, medication, and behavioural therapy, she was pronounced incurable. Estranged from her children, she did not tell Mortier of her decision. He found out the day after she received the treatment, when the hospital called his house.
“Yeah, it was a complete shock,” Mortier said of his reaction. “Of course, I knew that my mother was suffering mentally. But she would never have done it herself… I went to talk to the physician who killed my mother and he told me he was absolutely certain my mother didn’t want to live anymore. And I said, how can you be certain?”
How can we be certain indeed? Should we end unbearable pain, or be cautious of the multiple mental health issues that may lead to a flippant decision? Readily accessible euthanasia can be exploited very easily. Considering the vast scope of human suffering, I do not feel like I am in a position to have an opinion on this one (that’s something I thought I’d never say). But I’m glad Australia’s euthanasia laws are black, white, and stringent. If put in that position, I don’t think I could bear the responsibility of making the choice.
Image via Rsrevision.com
When it comes to Christmas markets, Europe has the rest of the world beat. If you’re in the region this Christmas, drop by these places for the ultimate holiday experience.
The first even Christmas market is said to have originated in Strasbourg. The market sits among picturesque wooden houses, canals and the local Notre Dame church. Ice skate, listen to carol-singers or just stroll through the markets with a mulled wine (in a boot cup, of course).
The Christmas experience in Vienna is unmatched. Over 20 markets operate in town squares all over the city. The favorite is the markets at the base of the beautifully-decorated Rathuas (pictured) where around 3 million people flock each year to by their little glass ornaments or wooden toys. Because you are in the classical music capital of the world, see one of the many special concerts held in the Rathaus over each weekend of the holiday season.
It is estimated that Germany has around 5,000 Christmas markets – so anywhere you go, you will find something to please you. But the markets in Dresden date back to 1434 and are the oldest in the country – perhaps on the continent. Dresden sits on the picturesque river Elbe, and despite being destroyed during World War II, has been restored to its glorious historic aesthetic.
Prague, Czech Republic
Shop Bohemian crystal, hand-made marionettes and decorations in one of Prague’s adorable Christmas markets. The best is probably in the old town square, surrounded by gothic architecture, and of course, the famous clock tower. Prague is magical any time of year, but the Christmas spirit brings new life to this usually dark and mysterious marvel.
Brussel’s relatively young market spans a two kilometre course through the city’s historic centre. There will be rides for the kids, 18,000 lights, an ice-skating rink, and over 240 stalls for you to browse. Don’t miss out on the local cuisine – mussels, fries, chocolate and waffles!
Image of Brussels via europeanbestdestinations.com