The European Court of Human Rights Tuesday ruled that Belgium did not violate the rights of a person suffering from depression by allowing her to proceed with a medically assisted euthanasia procedure but did violate the right to life by failing to conduct a proper investigation.
In 2012, 64-year-old Godelieva de Troyer decided to end her life with the assistance of an oncologist after she suffered from severe depression for over 40 years. Her oncologist conducted an interview and determined she was capable of making a sound choice to end her life. The court ruled that de Troyer’s decision was made “of her own free will, in a repeated and considered manner, and without external pressure.”
The court also highlighted that other sources had come to the same conclusion, saying, “[t]hat conclusion had subsequently been confirmed by the criminal investigation conducted by the judicial authorities, which had decided that the euthanasia had indeed complied with the substantive and procedural conditions prescribed by the Euthanasia Act. … There [was] therefore no violation of Article 2 under this head.”
De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, took legal action and claimed that the oncologist, other medical doctors and the Belgian government violated his mother’s right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights. He also claimed that he was not properly informed of his mother’s decision to undergo the procedure. The court noted that his mother sent him an email over three months before she went through with the procedure outlining her decision, and Mortier never responded.
ADF International, the conservative legal group representing Mortier in this case, responded to the ruling, saying, “the takeaway is that the ‘safeguards’ touted as offering protection to vulnerable people should trigger more caution toward euthanasia in Europe, and the world.”
The court did not consider whether there is a right to euthanasia under the European Convention of Human Rights and only considered whether the procedure was properly carried out in de Troyer’s case.