Why the Belgian law authorized the euthanasia of a 23-year-old girl

“I laughed and cried. Until the last day. (…) Now I will go in peace, I know I already miss you. » These are the last words left on her Facebook page by Shanti De Corte, a 23-year-old Belgian woman who died by euthanasia on May 7. The young woman is one of those who every year undergo euthanasia in the country for “psychiatric disorders” (0.9% of the 2,700 files submitted in 2020).

The story and origins of the drama were revealed on October 5 by RTBF (Belgian French-speaking radio and television), as part of an investigation into the “forgotten” victims of the March 22, 2016 Brussels airport attack. whose trial is scheduled to begin in mid-November. When the terrorists detonated their explosives, Shanti De Corte, who was about to take off for Rome, was only a few meters away from them. If she hadn’t been physically hurt, she would have been traumatized. This apparently reinforced a psychological frailty already present before the attack, forcing the student into intense psychiatric care.

Relentless psychic suffering

“I receive various medications at breakfast. And up to eleven antidepressants a day. I could not live without her”, he wrote on his Facebook page, during a stay at the clinic, still according to RTBF. He had also made several suicide attempts.

However, the Belgian law of 2002 stipulates that the euthanasia of psychiatric patients is “possible subject to certain conditions”, recalls member of the Federal Commission for the Evaluation and Control of Euthanasia. More specifically, the text opens euthanasia to anyone found “in dire medical straits” and reports “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be placated”. The request must be repeated and, “if it is clear that death will not occur in the short term” (which is the case in situations of psychiatric conditions), “examined by a second doctor” . According to RTBF, Shanti De Corte had already submitted several requests for euthanasia, all of them rejected until then.

Alternatives?

“But who are the psychiatrists who can agree with that? I dislike that brothers and sisters agree to such an act, Thierry Baubet, a psychiatrist specializing in collective trauma, was outraged on Twitter. When you feel powerless in the face of a psychiatric disorder, you reassess the diagnosis, try another technique, switch to another team, etc., but you don’t finish the job of the terrorist or the aggressor. »

Before validating a request, “Health professionals need to make sure other solutions have been looked at, other treatments have been tried”, defends the member of the control commission. Due to a duty of confidentiality, he will not give details about the file, but he assures that other ways would have been proposed to Shanti De Corte (including a stay in a specialized center, according to RTBF), which he would have rejected, as here again. the law allows it. Doctors found themselves in a medical impasse.

unavoidable extensions

“This kind of drama is sad, regrets the sociologist Tanguy Châtel, a specialist in the end of life. When euthanasia is legalized, in all countries we start with a reassuring speech. We are still talking about an exceptional law, with safeguards. But all perimeters are destined to expand. In Canada, Spain, Holland, all systems are affected. It is as if we wanted to change the laws so that they erase suffering, even if it is existential. »

This is the second time this week that the so-called “Belgian model” has been featured in the news. On Tuesday, October 4, the European Court of Human Rights thus condemned Belgium for the lack of independence of its Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia. joined by The crossthe Antwerp prosecutor’s office confirms that in March, two months before the death of Shanti De Corte, a report had been made, “about a request for euthanasia”. “Then an investigation was opened, but it was dropped because it was not a crime. We have nothing more to say on this subject. »

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