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Belgium convicted by European Human Rights Court over euthanasia case

The European Court of Human Rights has convicted Belgium for failing to provide sufficient guarantees for an independent evaluation following euthanasia.

The c ase was brought by a son whose mother underwent euthanasia in 2012 on account of chronic depression. The woman had indicated to doctors she didn’t want her children informed of her intentions.  Her son only learned what had happened after the woman had died.  He argued that his mother should not have been given euthanasia.

Belgium’s federal control and evaluation commission for euthanasia ruled that the law had been applied correctly.  The son filed several other complaints that were thrown out.

Before the Human Rights Court he argued that Belgium fell short in its obligations by failing to protect his mother’s life and failing to investigate the euthanasia properly.

The European Court says Belgium’s legal framework ahead of euthanasia is fine and that in this case euthanasia was executed correctly, but it identifies a lack in procedural safeguards after the event that fail to guarantee the evaluation is sufficiently independent.

The court points to the presence in the evaluation commission of Prof Wim Distelmans, who was involved in the woman’s euthanasia.  It doesn’t accuse the professor of influencing the commission’s evaluation. It also ruled that Belgium’s criminal investigation dragged on for too long.

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