The case of Tom Mortier shows how euthanasia advocates will never stop at the terminally ill

By May 25, 2015 Recent News

The Telegraph 2 February 2015
Tom Mortier never paid much attention to the discussion about voluntary death in his country. “I was like just about anyone else here in Belgium: I didn’t care at all,” he said. “If people want to die, it’s probably their choice. It didn’t concern me.”

But in April, 2012, ten years after the law changed to allow euthanasia, Mortier, a university lecturer, received a message at work. His 64-year-old mother, Godelieve De Troyer, who suffered from severe depression, had been euthanised the previous day. Would he be able to make the arrangements at the morgue?
His mother had largely broken off contact with the family but had informed him by email three months earlier that she was looking into euthanasia. Mortier did not dream that her request would be taken seriously because she was in perfect physical health. After his mother’s death, the doctor who gave her the injection assured Mortier that he was “absolutely certain” his mother didn’t want to live anymore. The shock felt by Mortier at the sudden – and unnecessary – loss of his mother inspired him to become a leading campaigner against Belgian euthanasia law.
Disturbing as Mortier’s case is, there are many supporters of ‘assisted dying’ in the UK who insist that it is not relevant here. Dignity in Dying, a slick and well-funded advocate organization, indignantly states that Belgium and the Netherlands – where a review committee ruled that the euthanasia of 47-year-old Gaby Olthuis, who suffered from tinnitus, was “careless” – have little to do with the law now slowly pushing its way through the House of Lords. Look away, they say, from entire nations where voluntary death has been legalized a few miles from our shores; instead, look to Oregon, a little state on the Pacific coast of the United States with less than two per cent of the country’s population which has become the go-to comparison for British euthanasia advocates.
They are wrong, of course. Belgium, not Oregon, is the future of assisted dying. In the US, a national campaign prioritizes the passage of assisted dying legislation across the country (with only three states currently permitting it). No one in any of the states which already have it will campaign to have the criteria extended to those who are not terminally ill for fear that it they would jeopardize the rolling campaign elsewhere.