Belgian woman dead after fighting for assisted suicide

3rd April 2009, Comments 1 comment

A 93-year-old Belgian woman has died after going on a 10-day hunger strike last month to force doctors to help her die, her family said.

BRUSSELS - Amelie Van Esbeen, who was born in the Flanders region in 1916, was surrounded by family members at a home where she lived for the past five years.

"The main thing is that her request for euthanasia was finally approved and that her decision relaunched the debate on how life should end," her grandson said.

According to her doctors Van Esbeen did not qualify for euthanasia under a 2002 law which authorizes doctors to help patients die if they are suffering from a "serious terminal illness" and "constant and unbearable pain that cannot be relieved".

Van Esbeen ended her hunger strike on March 24 and made a written euthanasia request which was accepted by a different doctor who helped her die on Wednesday around noon, her family said.

About 2,700 Belgians have committed assisted suicide since their country became only the second in the world after the Netherlands in 2002 to authorize euthanasia.

Under the law the patient must suffer from an incurable disease, be conscious and of legal age.

Possible assisted suicide for minors, people with dementia and those not terminally ill has caused controversy in Belgium after Van Esbeen's case was made public and following a recent survey which found that 76 minors had been euthanised over the past two years.

Twenty-two of the 76 children were babies.


1 Comment To This Article

  • Alex Schadenberg posted:

    on 3rd April 2009, 17:58:16 - Reply

    This article is not completely accurate.
    It refers to 2700 Belgians committing assisted suicide. In fact Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002, therefore 2700 Belgians have died by euthanasia since 2002.

    As much as assisted suicide results in the direct and intentional killing of a person, euthanasia is done by an act, such as an injection, whereas assisted suicide is done by providing the means that the person gives to themselves.

    The end is the same the act is different.

    Alex Schadenberg
    Euthanasia Prevention Coalition