"Catholic hospitals can refuse euthanasia and abortion"

The Belgian primate, the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Jozef De Kesel has triggered consternation after he stated that Roman Catholic hospitals in Belgium have the right to refuse to carry out abortions and euthanasia.

Speaking in the eastern daily Het Belang van Limburg the brand new leader of Belgium's Roman Catholics says: "I can understand that it's not a problem for somebody with a secular world view, but starting from my faith this is not something that is self-evident. I believe I have the right to state this and more: I believe that hospitals have the right to say we're not doing that. You don't have freedom of choice if there's only one option."

Prof Wim Distelmans, a leading pro-euthanasia academic is stunned: "It's strange that Mgr De Kesel believes hospitals have the right to adopt a moral view when they are public bodies. If they are Roman Catholic in nature or not, they are funded by the public purse."

"I also think it's strange that doctors would be limited in their moral freedom of conscience. I have the greatest respect for doctors that do not want to perform euthanasia, but it cannot be imposed upon them."

Prof Wim Distelmans also has knowledge of delaying tactics adopted in Roman Catholic hospitals when euthanasia is requested.

Flemish liberal lawmaker Jean-Jacques De Gucht too takes the primate to task: "Roman Catholic hospitals servive on subsidies. They must follow the law."

Federal MP Valerie Van Peel (Flemish nationalist) speaks of a serious error in the monseigneur’s thinking: "An individual doctor cannot be forced to carry out euthanasia, but every hospital must offer patients who qualify this option."