Diest rest home must pay damages after refusing euthanasia

Summary

A Catholic retirement home in Flemish Brabant has been fined €6,000 for refusing to allow one of its residents access to euthanasia, long legal in Belgium

Court ruling

A Catholic rest home in Diest, Flemish Brabant, that refused to carry out a request for euthanasia had no right to do so, a court in Leuven has ruled. The organisation Sint-Annendael Grauwzusters, which manages the Sint-Augustinus rest home, was ordered to pay €6,000 damages to the woman’s family.

The patient, 74-year-old Mariette Buntjens, was suffering from terminal lung cancer and had made an end-of-life agreement with her doctor. When the time came for euthanasia to be carried out, the home (pictured) refused her doctor access.

Her family eventually removed her from the home, and the procedure was carried out. According to the family, this caused her unnecessary suffering.

According to the court, the home had no right to come between the patient and her attending physician, especially as it could not show any failure on their part in following the law.

Euthanasia law in Belgium allows a doctor to refuse to carry out the procedure, but the Leuven case resolves the question of whether an institution such as a rest home can do the same – with the court ruling it cannot, regardless of any religious affiliation.