Euthanasia has been granted to a prisoner condemned to life imprisonment in Belgium but it has been cancellated because “the decision of doctors treating Frank Van Den Bleeken to no longer continue the euthanasia procedure”, said Koen Geens, the Belgian justice minister . “The Telegraph, 06 Jan 2015). Instead the killer, who is serving a life sentence will be transferred to a psychiatric prison. The ethical objection of the doctors attending the prisioner saved Frank Van Den Bleeken from death.
Frank van den Bleeken is a Belgian prisoner who was condemned to life imprisonment when he was 20 years old for the rape and murder of a young 19-year-old woman. Now 50-years-old, van den Bleeken does not suffer physical pain, nor is he in the terminal stage of any illness. However, after spending three decades in prison, he considers that his life is not worth living, and for this reason requested euthanasia, arguing unbearable mental anguish.
Belgium has seen a fast growth in the number of cases of euthanasia, and has expanded the practice beyond terminally ill adults. It can now be used in cases of intense pain and psychological distress, while last February the right to euthanasia was extended to terminally ill children, as long as their parents gave consent.
In 2013, the last year for which full records have been published, the number of euthanasia cases in Belgium rose to 1,807, up 27 per cent on the year before.
More than a third of euthanasia cases are in those under 60, and although the vast majority of approvals are given to those in unrelievable physical pain or terminally ill, 67 cases last year cited psychological grounds, including dementia and psychosis.
One previous prison inmate has been euthanased in Belgium but he was suffering a terminal illness.
Van Den Bleeken first applied for euthanasia in 2011, saying he had not been offered specialist therapy. Since then, a specialist centre has opened in Belgium, but he reapplied in any case.
Critics of his case say it reflects the poor mental health services and palliative care available to Belgian inmates.