Mortier v. Belgium
Description: Oncologist Wim Distelmans killed Godelieva De Troyer, a Belgian citizen who was not terminally ill, because of “untreatable depression” in April 2012 after receiving consent from three other physicians who had no previous material involvement with her care. De Troyer’s doctor of more than 20 years had denied her request to be euthanized in September 2011, but after a 2,500 EUR donation to Life End Information Forum, an organization that Distelmans co-founded, he carried out her request to die because of the depression. The donation gives rise to an apparent conflict of interest. No one contacted Mortier before his mother’s death even though, Mortier says, her depression was not only largely the result of a break-up with a man, but also due to her feelings of distance from her family.
European human rights court to hear landmark euthanasia case
“International law has never established a so-called ‘right to die.’ On the contrary, it solidly affirms the right to life—particularly for the most vulnerable among us,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, who represents Mortier. “We welcome the decision of the court to hear this precedent-setting case, the sad facts of which expose the lie that euthanasia is good for society.”
Mortier’s mother was euthanized in 2012 in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal. Without any prior consultation, Mortier was informed one day later and was told that she had been suffering with “untreatable depression.” Belgian law specifies that the person being euthanized must be in a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.” Tom’s mother was physically healthy, and her treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years confirmed that she did not satisfy the requirements of the law.
“The big problem in our society is that, apparently, we have lost the meaning of taking care of each other,” said Mortier. “My mother had a severe mental problem. She had to cope with depression throughout her life. She was treated for years by psychiatrists, and eventually the contact between us was broken. A year later, she received a lethal injection. Neither the oncologist, who administered the injection, nor the hospital had informed me or any of my siblings that our mother was even considering euthanasia.”
“The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we see the tragic consequences in this case,” said ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman. “According to the most recent government report, more than six people per day are killed in this way, and that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. The figures expose the truth that, once these laws are passed, the impact of euthanasia cannot be controlled. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living.”
In November 2017, ADF International filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights that asked it to take the case, Mortier v. Belgium.
- Pronunciation guide: Mortier (More-TEE’-ay)
ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Paul Coleman serves as executive director of ADF International, overseeing the legal advocacy of all ADF International offices. Specializing in international human rights and European law, Coleman has been involved in more than 20 cases before the European Court of Human Rights and has authored submissions before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, UN Human Rights Committee, and numerous national courts. Coleman earned his LL.M. and postgraduate diploma in legal practice from the Northumbria Law School, graduating with distinction. He also has a bachelor of laws from Newcastle University and graduated with first-class honours. Coleman is a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales and is the author of two books and numerous articles.