In Belgium, a young victim of the 2016 attacks resorts to euthanasia for “unbearable psychological suffering”

The tragic story of Shanti de Corte moves her country and returns France to its recurring ethical debates around euthanasia. After a long therapeutic and hospital journey, this 23-year-old Belgian, a survivor of the 2016 Brussels attacks, resorted to assisted suicide on May 7, due to “unbearable psychological suffering.”

It was RTBF, the Belgian public audiovisual service, which revealed the background to the death of the young Flemish man, on Wednesday, October 5, in an episode of the informative magazine “Investigación” dedicated to the “forgotten” victims of the terrorist attacks in May . 22. 2016. The attacks left 32 dead and more than 300 wounded. Suffering from psychological distress prior to the attack and amplified by the trauma of the attacks, the young woman wanted to end her life.

Previous depression and lasting trauma.

Shanti de Corte was one of the survivors of the double suicide attack that targeted the Belgian capital’s metro and the Brussels-Zaventem airport, in the northeast of the city. On the day of the terrorist attacks, the teenager was at the airport with 90 other students from the Sint-Rita school in Kontich (in the Antwerp region), all on their way to a school trip to Italy. While the students waited in the departure hall, the two terrorists present at the scene detonated their explosives, a few meters from them.

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Shanti de Corte emerges physically unharmed from the attack. But her psychological trauma is immense and fuels a pre-existing malaise. Her school psychologist at the time confirmed to RTBF that she had taken in a student. “who already had serious psychological problems before the attack,” in post-traumatic shock after the terrorist attack.

“A few weeks after March 22, Shanti [de Corte] He is hospitalized in a psychiatric center in Antwerp. A place that she knows well as she had already stayed there several times before the attacks”, specifies the Belgian medium. The young woman then undergoes strong antidepressant treatment and begins a cycle of going to and from the hospital, which will last six years.

In 2020, Shanti de Corte makes a suicide attempt (which is not the first). Her pharmacological treatment is increased, and the concern of those around him increases. Her friends and a therapist offer her to join a therapeutic program created specifically for the victims of the Brussels attacks, which she refuses.

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After making several requests for euthanasia that have so far been denied, the student approaches LEIF, an association that defends the right to die with dignity. His new request, made in April 2022, is this time validated by two psychiatrists. Shanti de Corte was sacrificed according to her wishes, surrounded by her family, on May 7.

Medical and ethical issues.

The decision to grant the right to euthanasia to Shanti de Corte, only 23 years old and a survivor of an attack, has raised, since her death and the broadcast of the report, medical and ethical questions. A neurologist from CHU Brugmann in Brussels, Paul Deltenre, who intervened in the file, considered in particular with the RTBF that euthanasia should not have been carried out because other proposals for care had been made to the young woman.

The Antwerp public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the events after a report, before closing the case, concluding that the procedure had been respected. Questioned by the RTBF, the Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, for its part, explained that the law has been respected and that the “The young woman was in such psychological pain that her request was logically accepted.”

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In Belgium, where euthanasia has been authorized since 2002, the broadcast of the report that reveals the end of life chosen by Shanti de Corte has been denounced. Through the voice of her lawyer, the relatives of the deceased asked this ” that their privacy and tranquility be respected”, points out in particular the online medium 7 sur 7. It also specifies that the family, who refused to respond to requests from RTBF, ” expressed reservations about compliance with professional conduct and ethics,” considering that the report contained “several fundamental errors”.

What does the Belgian law say about euthanasia?

Belgium is one of the first European countries to have authorized euthanasia (death caused by a caregiver at the request of a patient), twenty years ago. She admits to having a broad definition of the conditions that make euthanasia possible.

The text of the law specifies that the request made by the patient must be “voluntary, reflexive, repeated”, “no external pressure”. Note that the doctor will not commit a crime” as soon as the patient, victim of a “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering” aftermath of a “accidental or pathological incurable condition”, “He is in a desperate medical situation.” As in the case of Shanti de Corte, a second medical opinion is necessary when the patient’s death “Obviously I will not intervene” naturally “at short notice”.

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The announcement of the circumstances of Shanti de Corte’s death also came the day after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to condemn the Belgian State for “failures” in the subsequent control of euthanasia practiced in the country, in a sentence issued on Tuesday, October 4. This was the first time that the ECHR ruled on a case that questions the legislation that authorizes euthanasia.

According to Agence France-Presse, the country registered 2,700 euthanasias in 2021. Most of these concerned people aged 60 to 89 years and, in 84% of cases, death was expected in “short term”.

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