Belgium's Roman Catholic bishops have protested against a bill on euthanasia in the Belgian senate which, if passed, would make Belgium the second country after The Netherlands to legalize mercy killings and assisted suicides.

Supporters say that the measure could be ready for adoption by the end of this year.

In a statement issued on July 3, the bishops rejected the creation of a legal framework for euthanasia as "morally unacceptable." They pointed out that the drafted law goes beyond legalizing euthanasia for patients who, because of unbearable physical suffering, "find themselves in a medically hopeless situation." Those with unbearable mental suffering, including patients who are not terminally ill, would also be able to ask for assistance in ending their life.

The bishops feared that "the legal option of euthanasia will create social pressure on the weakest [members of society], which will lead them to more readily see themselves as 'no longer wanted'." This would cause them to ask for their life to be ended, "so as not to be a burden on others." The bishops said they had received "signals from the field" which confirmed this fear.

The bishops also charged that the bill would "severely strain the necessary relations of trust" between patients and medical personnel. "Those who advocate euthanasia in the name of individual freedom would have to answer for the negative impact that this would have on the medical profession," they said.

By opposing euthanasia, the bishops said they wanted to "prevent the creation of a chilly and pragmatic society, which lacks tenderness and, in the case of human suffering near the end of life, offers no way out other than to kill the person who suffers." They called for more resources for palliative ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.