Tom Mortier hadn’t given much thought to Belgium’s liberal euthanasia laws. He didn’t think they affected him. Tom is a university professor in Belgium, where he has lectured since 2006. For Tom, it seemed that if a person wanted to die, who are we to stop him? Why can’t that person simply make that choice? Besides, it doesn’t affect anyone else. Tom’s perspective changed forever one day when his wife received a phone call. The caller was from a hospital, letting her know that they needed to take care of Tom’s mother’s affairs since she had been euthanized. Tom was shocked. His mother had suffered with chronic depression for more than 20 years. Her depression had been particularly exacerbated after the break down of a relationship with a long-term partner in 2010. Yet, Tom had no idea that she was going to be given a lethal injection.
Oncologist Wim Distelmans killed Godelieva De Troyer, Tom’s mother, because of ‘untreatable depression’. Three other physicians consented to De Troyer’s request for euthanasia, but none had previous material involvement with her care. De Troyer’s request was granted after she made a €2,500 donation to Life End Information Forum, which Distelmans co-founded; Distelmans is also the co-chair of the federal euthanasia commission that ‘evaluates’ euthanasia cases after the event to ensure that the requirements of the law were followed.
Tom is currently pursuing legal action through the European Court of Human Rights.