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From PBS, Nonjudgmentalism on Belgian Euthanasia

Wesley J. Smith

Well, at least they reported accurately that Belgium doctors euthanize mentally ill people. But the utterly non-judgmental tone of this PBS story is truly chilling. From "The Right to Die in Beligium":

MEGAN THOMPSON: As she opens the door to her home…this 34-year old Belgian woman known as "Eva" seems at ease. But actually she’s chronically depressed. More than once she’s tried to commit suicide. And now she’s asking doctors to help her. Help her die by euthanasia…all of it captured in a Belgian documentary.

EVA (voiceover): It may seem strange but I am looking forward to the rest. The choice has been made. The decision has been made. I am looking forward to the rest I have longed for, for so long.

MEGAN THOMPSON: It may sound shocking, but in Belgium euthanasia is quite accepted. And it’s not just for the terminally ill. Chronically depressed patients like Eva can request it, too. And so on a day and time she’s chosen… Eva says goodbye to her family.

MARC VAN HOEY: Eva, are you ready?

EVA: Yes, I am ready, doctor.

MEGAN THOMPSON: And then she lays down on her couch.

MARC VAN HOEY (voiced over): Would you like to say something to your brother and sister-in-law?’

EVA (voiced over): Bye.

BROTHER: Sleep Well.

EVA (English): Thank you.

MEGAN THOMPSON: The man kneeling by her side, about to give her the lethal injection, is her doctor for the past two years. Dr. Marc Van Hoey.

Eva’s family just says, "Sleep well"? If that doesn’t demonstrate the insidious and subverting nature of euthanasia, nothing does.

The entire report is so blas�. True, Thompson interviews Tom Mortier, who has brought a human rights lawsuit after his depressed mother was euthanized — and his attorney, being sure to note that he is with the "Christian" Life Defending Freedom — a matter utterly irrelevant to the legal questions at hand.

Still, the heft of the report is at best, terminally nonjudgmental. Thus, she reports, "the system works well":

MEGAN THOMPSON: The 16-person euthanasia commission — half doctors, half lawyers, meets every month in Brussels. By law, after performing euthanasia, doctors must file a report with the Commission detailing what they did and why. The Commission reviews the reports to be sure conditions set by the law were met. If not, Genicot says in the worst case, a doctor could face homicide charges…

MEGAN THOMPSON: And he says the system works well. Giving doctors a practical and humane way to help suffering patients die peacefully. Genicot says some doctors choose to describe that in an optional section of the report.

Why didn’t Thompson challenge that view? In response to assertions of how "well" Belgian euthanasia works, there are so many rich areas for an enterprising journalist to explore.

  • Why didn’t she bring up the psychiatric patient euthanized because she was sexually exploited by her psychiatrist.
  • Or the transsexual distraught about her sex change surgery?
  • Or the killing of psychiatric patients conjoined with organ harvesting?

Now assume that PBS was doing a program on how Ireland doesn’t permit abortion. And you had a doctor saying how satisfying it is that babies who would have been aborted are, instead, born. Can any of us imagine such a calm, nonjudgmental presentation?

Of course not. Thompson concludes with the core message of the report, that killing the depressed is "death with dignity":

MEGAN THOMPSON: Which brings us back to Eva, the young woman convinced the only way to end her mental suffering was to end her life. Eva agreed to be filmed because she believed that people with chronic, incurable psychiatric illness can be helped to die with dignity.

This approach to reporting about the suicides of depressed people violates the World Health Association journalism guidelines about covering suicide. 

That’s not surprising to me. The media are increasingly pro-suicide. This mild pretense of "objectivity" is but one example of the many ways the media push that meme.

Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.