The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that the Belgian state didn’t violate the rights of a person suffering from depression when it accepted her request to go ahead with a euthanasia procedure despite years of chronic depression.
Judges ruled in favor of Belgium in three out of four counts, only finding fault over how the government conducted a review after the euthanasia was performed.
Godelieva de Troyer, 64 at the time of the procedure in 2012, suffered with chronic depression for four decades. She approached oncologist Wim Distelmans to execute a euthanasia procedure.
The complaint was taken to the court by de Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, who said he wasn’t properly informed of the decision to go ahead with the procedure. de Troyer did not want to call her children for fear of delaying the procedure.
Mortier was then informed by the hospital the day after the euthanasia was carried out — this lack of communication and investigation was the only issue cited in the court.
“We welcome the Court’s finding of an Article 2 violation, which sets an important precedent on the right to life—particularly when it comes to the most vulnerable in society. The decision counters the notion that there is a so-called ‘right to die,’ and lays bare the horrors that inevitably unfold across society when euthanasia is made legal. Unfortunately, while the court indicated that more ‘safeguarding’ is an appropriate solution to protecting life, in its own ruling it makes clear that safeguards were indeed insufficient to protect the rights of Tom’s mother.
It is unfortunate that the Court dismissed the challenge to the Belgian legal framework; however, the takeaway is that the ‘safeguards’ touted as offering protection to vulnerable people should trigger more caution toward euthanasia in Europe, and the world. The reality is that there are no ‘safeguards’ that can mitigate the dangers of the practice once it is legal. Nothing can bring back Tom’s mother, but we hope this decision offers Tom some small measure of justice,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International, who represented Tom Mortier before the Court.