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Catholic nursing home in Belgium fined for refusing euthanasia request

(RNS) A Belgian court has fined a Catholic care home for refusing to let a terminally ill woman receive a lethal injection on their property.

In 2011, doctors went to the Sint-Augustinus nursing home in Diest, northern Belgium, to carry out a euthanasia request by Mariette Buntjens, a 74-year-old woman who was suffering from terminal lung cancer.

But the medics were refused access by staff at the Catholic home, Flanders Today reported.

Relatives of the cancer patient later moved her out of Sint-Augustinus so she could be given the injection.

Earlier this year, the patient’s family members took the case to court, where they argued Buntjens suffered unnecessarily from the home’s decision.

The three judges on the civil court panel unanimously ruled that “the nursing home had no right to refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection.”

The organization behind the Sint-Augustinus home was ordered to pay 6,000 euros ($6,700) in damages to the patient’s family.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002, and the procedure is also available in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The Catholic Church is opposed to assisted dying and has described euthanasia as a crime “against life” along with murder and genocide. Pope Francis has said euthanasia represents a “false compassion” and is a “sin against God the Creator.”

“We all know that with so many old people, in this culture of waste, there is this hidden euthanasia,” he remarked in 2014.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)



  1. Two things:
    1. Effing Catholic healthcare providers always chose adherence to religious dogma over patient privacy, informed consent and medical ethics. Patients have a right to the services needed regardless of the alleged religious beliefs of administrators.

    2. The main problem with Euthanasia laws is it’s dependence on administrative hoops to jump through and the dragooning of people to assist with the suicide. IMO, the decision to end one’s life should involve as few people as possible. No others, if possible.

  2. So a CATHOLIC care home is penalized for refusing to allow a murder to take place on its property. That pretty much says it all for how little Europe cares about human life and religious liberty.

  3. Penalized for not granting it’s patient the sought after and entirely legal form of care. The bigger picture here is how Catholic healthcare providers attack patients rights and medical professional ethics in service of their religious dogma. A person goes not hospice care for relief when death from their ailments is a certainty. Ignoring a patients legal request to end their care in the way they wish is unethical to say the least. Outright cruel and inhumane at worst.

    That being said, I have reservations about the use of the medical profession for assisted suicide. The patient still received the life ending treatment they requested. All the hospice did was raise an unnecessary stink. Typical attitude that upholding religious dogma is more important than the actual rendering of care to the public.

  4. 6,000 euros seems a small price to pay for the courageous proclamation of a value understood to be grounded in the Gospel.

    A Catholic care facility, it seems to me, has a right and a responsibility to uphold Catholic moral values. The civil permissibly of euthanasia is not the same as the absolute obligation to provide it.

    A liberal society ought to have the intellectual tools necessary to recognize the rights of a religious institution and uphold the civil rights of individuals in society.

    A society intent on euthanasia, ought to be able to establish an orderly social structure to allow a hospice to provide its mission of care, and to transfer those residents to other institutions when they wish a different mode of service.

    Even that seems a bit horrific to me.

    I’m intrigued by the actual fine. How was the amount decided? Did it simply reimburse the family for the costs of transporting their relative to a place that would allow medical personnel to administer the euthanasia she desired?

  5. “A Catholic care facility, it seems to me, has a right and a responsibility to uphold Catholic moral values”

    The rendering of care in according to professional medical ethics, informed consent, and notions of respect for patients all take a backseat to a self righteous religious administrator.

    Catholic healthcare providers really need to warn patients. To emphasize how little they regard the actual providing of healthcare.

    It’s typical coercion one expects from the Catholic Church. Why show respect for theirs of others when you can impose your will on them.

  6. It would seem to me there should be a provision so that those whos’ faith stops them from accepting euthanasia from being punished. Many people who are not Catholic do not accept euthanasia as an option.

  7. Spuddie
    You seem to have an anti-catholic bias.
    From your comments in your posts above, this bias would appear to cloud your judgement.

    Right & wrong are empirical truths.
    Euthanasia is murder however it is described and whatever the motive & suicide is also wrong
    It is “contra bonus mores” in all circumstances to promote euthanasia & suicide.
    Where does one draw the line?
    The 2nd World War showed to what extent these things can get out of hand.

    We have a general duty to cure & care for the sick & infirm.
    When cure is no longer possible, the duty of care remains. Murder or the encouraging suicide cannot be described as medical care.

  8. No it’s a pro-medical professional ethics bias. A hospital is not a church. People should never ever have to sacrifice proper healthcare and informed consent for the sake of religious dogma of others. Patients deserve the best care available.

  9. Read what I wrote again. Maybe you will understand the second time around.

  10. No, I got you the first time. You think upholding your religious dogma is more important than profesdional medical ethics, patient right of informed consent and notions of medical necessity and safety.

    Your view of “morally clear” takes on different subjects is anything but. All you have demonstrated was a lack of consideration beyond fairly arbitrary religious guidelines and a lack of regard for others.

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