St Augustine rest home was fined €6,000 after it stopped doctors from giving a lethal injection to a 74-year-old woman
Judges in Belgium have fined a Catholic nursing home for refusing to allow the euthanasia of a lung cancer sufferer on its premises.
The St Augustine rest home in Diest was ordered to pay a total of €6,000 after it stopped doctors from giving a lethal injection to Mariette Buntjens.
Days later, the 74-year-old woman was instead taken by ambulance to her private address to die “in peaceful surroundings”.
Buntjens’ family later sued the nursing home for causing their mother “unnecessary mental and physical suffering”.
A civil court in Louvain upheld the complaint and fined the home €3,000 and ordered it to pay compensation of €1,000 to each of Mrs Buntjens’s three adult children.
During the hearing, the three judges decided unanimously that “the nursing home had no right to refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection”.
The test case clarifies Belgian law to mean that only individual medical professionals – and not hospitals or care homes – have the right to refuse euthanasia requests.
The judgement could spell the closures of scores of Catholic-run nursing and care homes across Belgium because the Church has stated explicitly that it will not permit euthanasia “under any circumstance”.
Sylvie Tack, the lawyer for the family, said that “it is now black and white that an institution cannot intervene in an agreement between doctor and patient”.