A 38-year-old woman, heartbroken and suicidal from the end of a relationship, was euthanized by Belgian doctors in 2010. They claimed she was autistic, and was “unbearable and incurable.” Her family, however, claims she was never given any treatment, and the law was broken. However, in a shocking turn of events, all three doctors have been acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Tine Nys had been plagued with psychiatric problems for years, and had tried to kill herself several times. Yet according to the Associated Press, her family insisted she was not a hopeless case. They claim that not only was Nys not autistic, but that she had been suffering from mental illness for 15 years prior to her death, and that she never received any treatment.
Disturbingly, however, the doctors’ acquittal seemed to focus more on preserving Belgium’s lax euthanasia laws than on delivering justice for Nys. “This is relief for all doctors who have to carry out such tough tasks,” defense lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge told the AP. “If this would have gone the other way, so many doctors would have been in real deep trouble.”
The doctors who carried out the fatal procedure likewise celebrated after a jury cleared them of any wrongdoing. “This is such a relief. This has been with us for 10 years,” psychiatrist Lieve Thienpont said. Joris Van Hove, who actually administered the lethal poison, was likewise cleared, although the jury felt more doubt about acquitting him. Still, as there was reasonable doubt, the judge said he would be cleared as well.
“The verdict is that there is reasonable doubt on the part of the court in regard to Joris Van Hove,” the judge said, according to UPI. “And if there is reasonable doubt, that works in favor of the accused.” And in a perhaps callous statement, considering the anguish Nys’ family is feeling, Van Hove remarked, “These have been difficult years for everyone and nobody has really won in this case. I’ll sleep well tonight.”
Fernand Keuleneers, who represented Nys’ family, warned that this sets a disturbing precedent for Belgium. “The euthanasia law is now beyond any controls,” he said. “Everyone can do what he or she wants. The political world is facing a massive problem.” And that warning seems to be more than valid, given the reaction to this case.
“That is what we are fighting for,” politician Gwendolyn Rutten said. “It [euthanasia] deserves security and expansion, also for people with dementia.”
This is far from the first or only case in Belgium to gain notoriety. There, people have been euthanized for having a disability and for being transgender. Others have been euthanized without their consent. Yet instead of realizing that things have gone too far, politicians and doctors are breathing sighs of relief that no one was held responsible.
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