Webcast archive: Latest figures from Belgium

This week, we discuss new data from Belgium.

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Latest figures from Belgium show more than 2,000 people were euthanized in 2015
  • Canadian Association of Retired Persons hires Wanda Morris as advocacy director
  • Compassion & Choices gives up in Connecticut, for now
  • A note on the slippery slope

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.


  • Last year in Belgium, 2021 people were euthanized under that country’s medical killing program.
  • The program Commission Chairman, Wim Distelmans said he believed that some of the increase was due to more doctors reporting euthanasias they had carried out.
  • He also noted that there are probably still more unreported medical killings happening, which he said could bring the total as high as 4,000 people.
  • Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002.  The country reached the 1,000 person-per-year milestone in 2011, and the numbers are increasing even more rapidly.
  • In 2014, Belgium legalized euthanasia for children, though Mr. Distelmans said the commission had not received any request for euthanasia of a minor.


  • According to an article in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Susan Eng was dismissed from her position as executive vice president for advocacy at the Canadian Association for Retired Persons (CARP).
  • Ms. Eng was replaced by Wanda Morris, former director of Dying with Dignity Canada.
  • This step is worrisome because it declares an open shift from CARP’s formerly neutral position to vigorous support for assisted suicide and euthanasia.  How that shift will play out is anybody’s guess.  Will Morris use CARP’s substantial resources to promote assisted suicide to Canada’s elderly population?  Is that what CARP members want?
  • Instead of Ms. Eng’s broad mandate, Wanda Morris is likely to bring a much narrower focus to the advocacy position.  This is in line with the position of CARP’s president, Moses Znaimer, who is a financial backer of Dying with Dignity.
  • Recently, CARP ran a survey on its website completed by 2,700 people.  Ms. Eng said respondents wanted to control of their own deaths, but they also wanted judicial review to protect potentially vulnerable people from abuse by assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Ms. Eng said that CARP has not promoted the results of this poll.
  • CARP is a non-profit that advocates on behalf of Canadians who are 50 years of age or older.  CARP members can “vote with their feet” by cancelling their membership to the organization and indicating the reason for their decision.


  • Compassion and Choices has decided not to bring another assisted suicide bill in Connecticut, after several failed attempts to pass such legislation.
  • It appears they are focusing their attention on other states, such as Colorado and New York.
  • Stephen Mendelsohn of Second Thoughts Connecticut says the fight needs to be brought to the political arena.  He called for the formation of a political action committee to support anti-assisted suicide candidates in this year’s election, and to challenge pro-assisted suicide candidates.


  • We have often noted here how the slippery slope works; a lapse in security that seems unthinkable one day soon becomes acceptable and then it becomes normal.  By the same token, safeguards that are proposed one day are abandoned later on as they are perceived to be unnecessary
  • This is the case with the June 2012 British Columbia court decision in Carter v. Canada.  In that decision, the plaintiffs who were asking for assisted suicide proposed a scheme of safeguards that have since been worn down or dismissed in the more permissive environment that has evolved.
  • The plaintiffs proposed
    • Mandatory psychiatric evaluations
    • The disqualification of people who have major depressive disorder
    • A minimum waiting period (which would vary depending on the category of medical condition and could be longer for a person who has recently acquired a disability).
    • Requiring the person to confirm his desire for assisted suicide
    • The person be unable to commit suicide without assistance
    • Requiring a palliative care consultation
    • (The plaintiffs could accept that) the person would have to exhaust reasonable treatment alternatives of a non- or minimally invasive nature.
    • Submitting the eligibility determination for review by an expert panel.
  • Compare these to the report of the Provincial/Territorial Expert Panel, 3 ½ years later, which calls for none of these safeguards, and would loosen other restrictions, such as age and competency (via advance directives.)
  • In addition the Expert Panel would allow video consultations with physicians in place of physical examinations to determine eligibility, and no presence of a health professional to witness or supervise a self-administered death.
  • In other words, the Expert Panel is recommending a law that is essentially the same as the laws that exist elsewhere now, yet hoping for a better outcome (fewer problematic deaths).  Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of foolishness.