LANSDOWN, Virginia, June 1, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - As Canada and several U.S. states mull over legislation to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia, one Belgian man has claimed that silent acceptance of euthanasia in his country has led to unspeakable routine abuse, and is warning the Western hemisphere to be on guard against the encroaching euthanasia agenda.
Lionel Roosemont told his story at the Second International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, held May 29-30 at the National Conference Center in Lansdown, Virginia. The conference was hosted by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and co-sponsored by anti-euthanasia groups around the world.
Roosemont says he came face-to-face with the euthanasia culture in Belgium upon learning that his unborn daughter Tikvah, now 13 years old, would suffer severe disabilities related to hydrocephalus. Encouraged to abort Tikvah, Roosemont says he and his wife Renate decided to "swim against the current," and gave birth to their daughter.
Despite lacking most of her brain, the girl proved capable of movement, sight, and hearing, contrary to her doctors' dire forecasts. Though harrowed by the fight to preserve Tikvah's life from ending in abortion, said Roosemont, "it was some of the training we needed to [fight] the equally horrible monster called euthanasia."
In 2002, Belgium passed a law allowing euthanasia as requested by a patient under "constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain" who has issued written consent. A third doctor's opinion must be sought if the illness is not terminal, and a one-month waiting period is mandatory for patients suffering from depression.
Roosemont described the prejudice Tikvah received in a society that, he says, "changed dramatically since [the] euthanasia law was adopted."
"Life is more and more losing its value," said Roosemont. "Can you understand why our daughter is never left alone in a hospital?"
In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Roosemont insisted that the actual practice of euthanasia in Belgium disregards the "safeguards" attached to the law. "We have a huge problem with lawlessness," he said. Roosemont claimed that the law is commonly transgressed "without there being any consequences."
Roosemont cited a 2006 report in the medical magazine Huisarts, written by Dr. Marc Cosyns - whom he called the "Kevorkian" of Belgium - stating that Cosyns had euthanized a woman suffering from dementia. Although the procedure was patently illegal - not only was the woman not terminally ill, but she was not fully lucid and had not given written consent - Cosyns was not punished.
"The problem with us is that it's almost become a law [to disregard the safeguards]," said Roosemont.
In his speech to the conference, Roosemont showed a video interview of one of his elder daughters describing an encounter with a teacher concerning Tikvah. Upon seeing Tikvah for the first time, the teacher said that she ought to be euthanized.
"The actual words: 'She's just a euthanasia child,'" Roosemont told LSN. He said he has heard the sentiment twice.
While the loose application of euthanasia restrictions is widely known among Belgians, said Roosemont, the true depth of abuse is little understood. One such abuse he claimed occurs routinely is the administration of lethal drugs at one Belgian hospital to elderly, seriously ill patients - known as the "weekend cleanup" - as described to him by a nurse who worked there.
"It is logical," he said. "It is very logical. We live in the time of instant coffee. What that means is that nobody wants to suffer." Most of the time, he said, elderly victims of euthanasia are not themselves suffering from great pain, but are killed at the request of family burdened with their care.
But because the subject is still taboo in Belgium, Roosemont says indifference is widespread.
"The subject is taboo in Belgium. Main reason: the law has been voted [upon]," he said. "So many people have become accomplices of killing, or helping, at least approving, so you don't talk about that - and the moment someone starts talking about that, most people start to protect themselves."
Asked to comment on the situation in Canada, where MP Francine Lalonde recently introduced a proposal to legalize euthanasia, Roosemont said, "You will be surprised how fast this thing is coming."
"And if ... the stories that I've been hearing here [are true], there's already red [lights] flashing," he said. "The big risk, I think, is that many countries will be [facing] the same thing that happened with Roe v. Wade. Before they know it, it will be there, and then they will react. The laws will be there. That's what I think. So it's high time to do something to inform as many people as possible."
Roosemont urged anti-euthanasia activists to "tell them the stories - for instance, what happened in Belgium."
"Be alert! Not many people know what is hanging over their heads," said Roosemont. "Don't say I didn't warn you. And please, don't run away from the responsibilities."