A Belgian nursing home is being sued by the family of a cancer patient for refusing to euthanize her.

Yes, you read that correctly.

An institution tasked with providing health care, treatment, and support to the ill and the infirmed is being taken to court for not wanting to perform a procedure that they viewed as antithetical to their professional identity and purpose. It’s one of those stories that when you read it, you shake your head and say “you can’t make this stuff up!.”

After the nursing home refused to euthanize the 74 year-old woman, she was moved and died with the “‘peaceful surroundings’ of a private residence at the hands of a doctor.” The family maintains that the delay that resulted in moving her from the nursing home to the private residence caused unnecessary pain and suffering.

As our friend Wesley J. Smith has written of the case, apparently in Belgium, the desire to be killed should trump any moral objections that some institutions may have about turning healing professionals into those who kill.

Perhaps this story should serve as a warning for those of us here stateside. As a new year begins and new legislative sessions open throughout the country, many states will consider laws allowing for this practice here at home. If there’s any good to come out of this otherwise twisted and unfortunate case, may it serve as a warning sign for us to remember that the chief commitment of medical professionals is to do no harm. Legislators and doctors would do well to recover this ancient truth and uphold it today.

Image by andresrueda via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director