Belgium’s already controversial euthanasia law is again making headlines this week. In a groundbreaking ruling, a convicted murderer and serial rapist supposed to be serving out a life prison sentence has been granted the right to end his life.
Fifty-year-old Frank Van Den Bleeken has been in prison since the 1980s. Since 2011, he’s been fighting for the right to be euthanized — citing "unbearable psychological anguish" resulting from his sexual impulses. (Video via Nos)
His lawyer argued euthanasia was his client's only option since the prison, he said, didn't provide proper therapies to treat Van Den Bleeken's condition. (Video via RTL)
This is Belgium's first case involving a prisoner since it introduced its euthanasia law back in 2002 for adults in “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated." (Video via Euronews)
According to France 24, official Belgian figures show there were 1,400 cases of euthanasia in 2012 — making up about two percent of deaths in the country.
Most cases involve the elderly and terminally ill and have been relatively uncontroversial. But there have been some exceptions when patients have filed a request based on unbearable psychological conditions.
In 2013, a transexual Belgian was granted the right to die after several failed gender reassignment surgeries.
That same year identical twin brothers who were both deaf chose euthanasia after learning they had a genetic disorder that was making them blind.
Belgium attracted international attention in March when it extended the right to die to terminally ill children without any age limit.
Under the law, parents must sign off on the child’s decision to end his or her life. Critics questioned whether children were capable of making such an irreversible decision. (Video via Voice of America)
Euthanasia is illegal in most countries, but permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Several countries, and a handful of U.S. states allow doctor-assisted suicide where the physician provides the patient with the means to end his or her life, at the patient's request.