The number of euthanasia cases annually in Belgium has exceeded two thousand for the first time since the controversial practice was legalised in 2002.
The new statistics, released by Belgium’s Federal Evaluation and Control Commission for Euthanasia, put the total of recorded cases in 2015 at 2021 (a rise of over 100 cases from 2014).
The figures have steadily increased since 2002, totalling over 1000 annually for the first time in 2011 (1133), and then rising dramatically in 2013 and 2014 (1816 and 1924 respectively).
Wim Distelmans, the head of the commission, attributes the surge to an increase in the reporting of euthanasia by doctors.
Belgium extended the scope of its law in 2014 to allow euthanasia for minors of any age suffering from incurable diseases if they were capable of making a rational decision about their fate. Distelmans says the commission is yet to receive a request for euthanasia for a minor.
Distelmans said the actual total of deaths in 2015 might be much higher than reported. "Remember, there could be some euthanasia cases carried out but which are not declared so we cannot say for certain what the position is”, he told the Belgian news agency Belga
The US Department of Health and Human Services has ruled that that transgender people are entitled to sex-change surgery provided under Medicare Advantage insurers. An Air Force veteran, Charlene Lauderdale, sought coverage for her transitioning surgery in November 2014 but it was denied because it was not the proper treatment for her, as she had been hospitalised four times for psychiatric problems.
The background to this decision is instructive. For many years, Medicare refused to cover transgender surgery. But in May 2014 a HHS Appeals Board ruled that this exclusion was based on outdated, incomplete, and biased science and medicine.
It turns out that the board reached its decision in a rather unusual way. In 1981 Medicare described sex reassignment surgery as “controversial” and “experimental” and said that it should not be covered. When this was appealed in 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) declined to defend the old determination. The only evidence presented to the appeals board was submitted by advocacy groups supporting the “aggrieved party”. The CMS presented not one sentence of evidence.
Our legal system is adversarial and its integrity depends on an honest clash between opposing points of view. Why did the CMS throw in the towel? Did it really believe that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever which might question the benefits of transgender surgery? It certainly exists.
In fact, a 2014 review about research into suicide and transgender population found “an unparalleled level of suicidal behavior among transgender adults”. This was compiled by the Williams Institute, at the UCLA School of Law, an LGBT think tank, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Their conclusions are also quite sobering: “The prevalence of suicide attempts among respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, is 41 percent, which vastly exceeds the 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population who report a lifetime suicide attempt, and is also higher than the 10-20 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults who report ever attempting suicide.”
Bioethics must always be based on evidence. Ignoring contrary evidence, as the HHS seems to have done, not only corrupts the legal process, it could do immense harm to vulnerable people.Michael Cook
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