Belgian Primate Asserts Institutional Exemption for Euthanasia Law

Archbishop Jozef De Kesel, primate of Belgium, has advocated that Catholic facilities should receive an exemption from offering euthanasia, legalized in 2002. “I think that we have the right, on an institu­tional level, to decide not to do it,” he stated in a report by Religion News Service (RNS).

The issue of religious exemptions arose after the Catholic-run St. Augustine nursing home forced an elderly patient with terminal cancer to go off the premises for her euthanasia procedure, the Tablet (UK) reported. A legal case brought by the woman’s family will be decided in April. Religious institutions’ policies are especially significant in Belgium—statistics show that three-quarters of the hospital beds in Flanders are in Catholic facilities.

Senate president Christine Defraigne of the liberal Reformist Movement party stated that “freedom of conscience does not apply to hospitals,” RNS reported. The European Institute of Bioethics indicates that the law enjoys wide support in Belgium.

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