Appeal to Belgian non-Catholic members of PACE on Assisted Dying
This appeal to non-Catholic Belgian members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was sent in June 1999.
As you know, the next meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be held in Strasbourg from 21 to 25 June.
On the agenda for the assembly there figures on Friday, June 25, discussion followed by a vote on document 8421 on the “protection of the human rights and dignity of the terminally ill and the dying” whose rapporteur is Madame E. Gatterer (Austria, EPP/CD).
The latter presented the Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly with an introductory report on 11 January in Paris.
This report is a unilateral and partisan presentation solely from the point of view of a fraction of the Catholic religious hierarchy. It does not mention nor does it take into account any other position.
It amounts to a condemnation of euthanasia based on the premise of respect for life at all costs.
The report to be submitted for your vote is totally at odds with the opinion of many doctors, who are faced with the realities of issues related to the end of life, as well as that of the majority of citizens of member states of the Council of Europe as evidenced by many polls.
The Centre d’Action Laique and many associations including in particular the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, have intervened in Belgium and other countries to emphasise the urgent necessity to amend the Criminal Code on this issue.
Just when parliamentary debate is finally to be started, the Council of Europe broaches the issue in the way presented by your colleague Madame Gatterer.
Knowing your commitment to the defence of personal freedom, we would like to draw your special attention to the dangerous precedent that would set by a vote of the Assembly in favour of the position set out by the rapporteur which “aims to encourage action to protect patients who are incurable and dying”, and not to respect such people’s own decisions concerning their own deaths.
Indeed recommendation to the Committee of Ministers ends with declarations:
- “That the desire to die expressed by anyone suffering an incurable illness or dying can never constitute a legal basis for his death in the hands of a third party;
- “That the desire to die expressed by anyone suffering an incurable illness or dying can never be used as legal justification for the execution of actions designed to bring about death.”
We would strongly urge you and your colleagues to intervene forcefully in the debate in order to ensure respect for the human right to a dignified death.