AuthorBopp, James, Jr.

The featured article in this edition of Issues in Law & Medicine, by professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, D.Phil., provides a critical review of euthanasia policy and practice in Belgium. The article opens with some background information and context of the legalization of euthanasia in Belgium. It discusses the Belgian law, its interpretation and implementation, and the major developments and controversies since it was legalized. Dr. Almagor expresses several concerns about the law in Belgium, including (1) euthanasia is not limited to people who are terminally ill, and may be applied to people with chronic degenerative diseases, or simply tired of life; (2) studies show that ending the life of patients without request is more common than euthanasia; (3) terminal sedation is practiced without request of the patient; (4) physicians may suggest euthanasia to their patients, which may result in patient's feeling undue pressure to acquiesce to euthanasia; (5) the required consultation with a second physician may be more of a quid pro quo arrangement (I'll approve euthanasia for your patients, if you approve it for mine), rather than being any objective examination and independent assessment of the patient's qualification for euthanasia; (6) euthanasia suppresses interest in developing palliative care solutions for these patients; (7) once legalized, the practice of euthanasia is extended to patients with dementia and newborns who are not capable of consent; and (8) there is no comprehensive monitoring of lethal drugs provided by pharmacists to patients for use in euthanasia. Dr. Almagor concludes that further safeguards against abuse should be studied and...

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