Expatica news

Doctors using euthanasiaon critically ill children

8 April 2005

BRUSSELS – In one year, over half of the critically ill babies and infants who died in Belgium’s Flanders region had their lives ended by euthanasia, it emerged on Friday.

The UK medical journal The Lancet reported that more than half of the 298 critically ill children and babies who died in Flanders between August 1999 and July 2000, had their lives ended as the result of a decision by doctors.

The figures were taken from a study by the Free University of Brussels, VUB, and a consortium of neonatal intensive care wards, with the help of Flemish universities.

It’s the first time such a study has been carried out.

The study comes as pharmacists ask for guidelines in relation to their potential role in euthanasia.

Although mercy killing in Belgium has been legal since 2002, and subject to strict rules to allow doctors to administer fatal doses of drugs, pharmacists say the law should spell out their obligations.

“The situation on the ground is sometimes worrying,” said Marleen Haems, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp association of pharmacists, KAVA.

According to the VUB, it is rare that a pharmacist is knowingly involved with a case of euthanasia since the drugs used in mercy killings can also be used in medical treatment. Pharmacists say, though, that they want to be told if a prescription is for use in euthanasia.

Some 83 percent of pharmacists questioned want directives on the issue to be developed in consultation with doctors and incorporated into the pharmacists’ code of practice and subject to regular revisions.

They also want fresh legislation on the issue.

In the Netherlands they point out, a doctor must collect euthanasia prescriptions himself from the pharmacy.

Health Minister Rudy Demotte has already set up a working group to see whether pharmacies should be able to stock lethal drugs used in euthanasia.

One drug used by doctors, thiopenthal, is hardly available in any pharmacy.

Pharmacists say they are reluctant to stock it since only two doses are needed to be fatal and suppliers sell it only in packs of 10.

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[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news