Ethical points in caring for people nearing end-of-life


Thematic : End of life / Palliative care


Published on : 23/09/2011

Author / Source : Etienne MONTERO

Issues linked to ageing and the end of life are complex and sometimes painful. The questions surrounding this topic are sensitive and cannot have a simple response. They challenge our sense of solidarity and our ingenuity in seeking ways and means to express true compassion and act appropriately.  

Several people have become household names as part of the debate on the end of life. Whether we like it or not, they have become part of our collective memory: Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo from the United States, Ramón Sampedro and Immaculada Echevarría from Spain, Vincent Humbert and Chantal Sébire from France, Piergiorgio Welby and Eluana Englaro from Italy, Hugo Claus from Belgium, and many others.  

The media has focussed on extreme cases which have been brought to public attention because of their particularly dramatic nature. Thus, the discussion has largely been based around certain "unusual" situations with high emotional stakes. Because of this, the complex and sensitive public debate surrounding the end of life is all too often reduced to a few paltry clichés and stereotypes built on feelings rather than an exchange of rational arguments. There is no end to specialised publications on this topic; however, their distribution often remains limited to the narrow circles of legal expertise, philosophy and medicine. Meanwhile, public opinion oscillates between knowledge, misunderstandings and approximations, and rigorous examination often gives way to the feelings, spectres and fears surrounding death.

  • end of life
  • euthanasia
  • palliative care
  • sedation

Similar articles

Does the Belgian model of integrated palliative care distort palliative care practice?

- Palliative care

The purpose of this report is to describe the Belgian model of end of life care that, since 2002, has aimed at developing "palliative care for all", while nonetheless authorizing the practice of euthanasia under certain conditions.
The thirteen years since the passage of this decree have culminated in a clash between two opinions:
 * one affirms that the decriminalization of euthanasia has truly enabled the development of continuous, palliative care;

* the other, conversely, stresses that ...

Read more

Euthanasia in Belgium : 10 years on

Euthanasia in Belgium : 10 years on

- Euthanasia and assisted suicide

May 28, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the legalisation of euthanasia in Belgium,  with the Netherlands following suit a year earlier and Luxembourg doing the same in 2009 6.

To date, these three Benelux countries are the only ones to have legalised the act of intentionally killing a person who makes such a request. At a time when legalisation of euthanasia is being debated in several European countries, notably in France, it would appear appropriate to take stock of the last 10 years of ...

Read more

Euthanasia of minors in Belgium

- Euthanasia and assisted suicide

On 28 February 2014 a law was enacted "amending the Act of 28 May 2002 on euthanasia in order to extend it to minors"1. Belgium thus became the first and only country to authorise euthanasia of minors without specifying that any conditions with respect to their age should be met.

Some people welcomed it, underlining the "pioneering" role Belgium played in establishing a legal framework for euthanasia, which was presented as the ultimate "humanitarian act" of which any patient, major or...

Read more