The medical and moral issues raised by euthanasia

Chronic depression sufferer Godelieva De Troyer in 2010, almost two years before she ended her life with the help of a doctor. Her lethal injection came as a shock to her son Tom Mortier, who only learned about it a day later.


In 2002, Belgium passed legislation allowing medical professionals to help a person end their life. And Quebec is now considering a law similar to the one in Belgium. We look at both sides of the Belgium experience.

"We are now worshiping doctors in Belgium who are killing their patients. And they call it the ultimate form of love... I'm sorry but I don't agree with this".

Tom Mortier's mother ended her life with the help of a doctor.

2014 may be the year when euthanasia becomes legal for the first time in Canada.
Quebec's National Assembly is considering Bill 52, which would legalize what is called "medically assisted dying". The bill was first proposed last June. Next week the committee studying it will continue its clause by clause consideration of the bill known as The Act Respecting the End Of Life Care.

Euthanasia has been legal in The Netherlands and Belgium for more than a decade now, and Quebec's proposed law has similarities with the laws on the books in those countries.

Euthanasia was legalized in 2002 in Belgium and public approval for the law is strong. In fact, Belgium is in the process of expanding the law to allow euthanasia for children.

Child euthanasia law passes in Belgium Senate — The Associated Press

Tom Mortier has been watching developments in his home country. He has an intimate connection to the issue. In April of 2012, after years struggling with depression, his 64-year-old mother ended her life with the help of a doctor.

Tom Mortier is a university lecturer in Belgium and we reached him in the city of Leuven.

"If you see some person dying with euthanasia ... all of them, if I might say so, they die quite happily".

Dr. Marc Van Hoey has assisted about 100 patients to die

Marc Van Hoey has a very different take on this issue. He was active in the drive to legalize euthanasia in Belgium. Marc Van Hoey is a general practitioner and president of Right To Die Flanders. He says he has assisted about 100 patients to die. Marc Van Hoey was in Antwerp.

Belgium's experience with euthanasia may be instructive for Canadians as Quebec debates Bill 52, which would legalize what it calls medically assisted dying. However, our next two guests draw very different lessons from Belgium's experience.

Wayne Sumner is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Toronto. His most recent book is Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law. Wayne Sumner was in Toronto.

Margaret Somerville is the founding director of The Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University. She was in Montreal.

Next week Quebec resumes its clause by clause review of its bill to legalize "medically assisted dying".

Share your thoughts on this discussion. Do you support Quebec's move to medically assisted death?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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