Free Death Tourism Draws Spike of Suicidal People to Belgium
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People wanting to die, even children, are getting their wish in Belgium. And it's not just Belgians who are doing it.
Assisted suicide is open to visitors to the country as well, and it is often completely free because it's covered by health insurance.
Belgium first legalized euthanasia, killing people to put them out of their misery, 14 years ago.
But then three years ago, the Belgium government broadened the law to include children. Yes - children suffering from disease who wish to be put to death are allowed to do so in Belgium.
The patients are killed with a lethal injection administered by a doctor. Last year more than 2,000 people were euthanized in Belgium. That number is twice what is was just five years earlier.
Many people who undergo the assisted killings are actually from outside Belgium. In fact, people travel from all corners of the world to end their suffering in this way.
By far, the largest number of euthanasia "tourists" come from nearby France. Euthanasia is illegal in France.
The International Business Times reports that French citizens often show up at Belgium emergency rooms, suitcase in hand, intent upon being put to death in that hospital within the week.
At Belgium's Brugmann University hospital, Dr. Oliver Vermylen said nearly half of the euthanasia patients come from France.
"It's a phenomenon that did not exist five or six years ago. Nowadays I get phone calls about French people who arrive in the emergency room announcing that they want euthanasia," Vermylen told Belgium's Sudpresse newspaper, according to The Times.
Another hospital spokesman, Michele Morret-Rauis said it's difficult to to turn down these requests.
"Of course, Belgium is not here to euthanize half the planet," he said. "I can understand those who say that France should look after its own patients. But this is easy to say in the office. When you have a patient who is suffering in front of you, you don't think of that. You help - whether they are French or not."
Similarly, at a different healthcare facility in Belgium, the Jules Bordet Institute, about a third of the euthanasia consults are from France.
Much of the reason French citizens flock to Belgium for euthanasia is because it's usually free. The procedure is commonly paid for by the European Union's health insurance program. The bills are sent to French healthcare providers.
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