Following a decision by the board of several Belgian Catholic psychiatric hospitals to start performing euthanasia, the religious brothers who operate the hospitals said the policy change is unacceptable, CNA reports.
“We deplore this new vision,” said Brother René Stockman, the superior general of the Brothers of Charity. Brother Stockman is himself a Belgian and a leading opponent of euthanasia.
The Brothers of Charity in Belgium run 15 psychiatric hospitals with 5000 patients. The board controlling their institutions has said it will now allow euthanasia in these hospitals.
Brother Stockman said he has informed the Belgian congregation that “as general superior we cannot accept this decision, because it is going totally against our charism of the charity.”
He said the decision can “not at all” be justified in a Christian framework. “It is a real tragedy,” he told the Australian-based website MercatorNet.
The Belgian Brothers of Charity board announced the decision on its website.
“We take seriously unbearable and hopeless suffering and patients’ request for euthanasia,” the board said.
“On the other hand, we do want to protect lives and ensure that euthanasia is performed only if there is no more possibility to provide a reasonable perspective to treat the patient.”
Brother Stockman said only a few brothers are still involved on the board governing the Belgian facilities. The majority of the members are lay people.
“Yes, there was a lot of pressure, but pressure doesn’t mean that we have to capitulate,” he said, charging that secularisation is “poisoning the congregation” in Belgium.
Raf De Ryce, chairman of the board overseeing the institutions, contended that the new policy was not a major change, the bioethics site BioEdge reports, citing Belgian newspapers.
“It is not that we used to be against euthanasia and now suddenly are for it. This is consistent with our existing criteria,” he said. “We are making both possible routes for our patients: both a pro-life perspective and euthanasia.”
Mr De Ryce said the inviolability of life is “an important foundation” but for the board it is not an absolute.
Head of Belgian order explains shock move (MercatorNet)