Death by doctor: Controversial physician has made his name delivering euthanasia when no one else will

By November 26, 2013 Recent News

National Post 22 November 2013
Wim Distelmans is unusual among physicians: when one of his patients dies, it means his treatment was a success. A long-time crusader for euthanasia, which was legalized in Belgium in 2002, Dr. Distelmans has made his name delivering death.
In September, the 60-year-old physician gave a lethal injection to Nathan Verhelst, 44, depressed over a failed sex-change operation. Last year, he oversaw the double euthanasia of Marc and Eddy Verbessem, 45-year-old deaf twins who chose to die after learning they would lose their eyesight. Also last year, he euthanized a despondent Godelieva De Troyer, 64, whose children learned of her death after the fact. And he acknowledges there are many more “borderline” cases that the public never hears about.
To some, Dr. Distelmans has come to embody the dangers of legalized euthanasia. “What is he? Is he God or something?” Ms. De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, asked in a recent interview.
But while he has his critics, more Belgians see the charismatic Dr. Distelmans as a hero. On one Wednesday night last month, more than 300 people turned out in Zemst, north of Brussels, to hear Dr. Distelmans talk about dying. Dressed in jeans, a polo shirt and a black sweater, he explained how to request euthanasia in a two-hour presentation peppered with jokes. One audience member, 76-year-old Simone Vleminckz, hailed Dr. Distelmans as someone who has devoted his career to ending people’s suffering. “I think he knows the pain people feel,” she said. “You see it in his face.”
Polls here show broad support for euthanasia, and the number of cases has grown steadily every year, from 235 in 2003, the first full year it was legal, to 1,432 last year. While the Quebec government pushes forward on a euthanasia law modeled after Belgium’s — the province’s Bill 52 passed second reading last month and is now under study by a legislative committee — the current debate here in Belgium is about expanding the euthanasia law rather than restricting it. And Dr. Distelmans is on the front lines.
http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/22/death-by-doctor-controversial-physician-has-made-his-name-delivering-euthanasia-when-no-one-else-will/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NP_Top_Stories+%28National+Post+-+Top+Stories%29

Leave a Reply