A Belgian rapist and murderer has been granted the right to be euthanized rather than spend the rest of his life in jail, as he says his incarceration is causing him “psychological suffering”. The death penalty is outlawed under European laws, but three European countries currently allow euthanasia.
Although the euthanasia laws passed in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were originally passed with the intention of allowing those with a terminal illness to end their lives early, the laws have since been used to euthanize physically healthy people suffering with long term conditions, including psychological problems, the Telegraph has reported.
Frank Van Den Bleeken, 52, falls into this category. Although he is physically healthy, he claims that the prospect of a further two to three decades behind bars is causing him “psychological suffering”, and that he should be allowed to die. In September, Belgium’s Federal Euthanasia Commission agreed, and over the weekend, officials gave permission for him to be taken to a specialist clinic this coming Sunday, where he will be killed by lethal injection.
It is the first case of a healthy imprisoned person being euthanized, although one previous inmate has been euthanized after being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Van Den Bleeken has spent most of his adult life behind bars for various sexual crimes. After a troubled childhood spend in and out of care, during which he was raped himself at the age of 15, he was first sent to prison for sexual offences when he was 21 years old.
Then on the 1st January 1989 he raped 19 year old Christine Remacle as she was on her way home from a New Year’s party, strangling her with one of her own stockings. He was deemed insane, not criminally responsible, and was incarcerated in a prison psychiatric ward for seven years before being released.
Within weeks of his release he attacked three more victims, aged 11, 17 and 29. Following those crimes he was detained indefinitely and has only been allowed out once, for his mother’s funeral. He has said that he is unlikely to ever be allowed out thanks to his inability to control his sexual impulses, and does not want to spend the next two to three decades locked up.
Van Den Bleeken first applied for euthanasia in 2011, arguing that he had not been offered specialist therapy. Critics have said that his case reflects the poor quality of mental health services available to inmates. However, since that time, a clinic has opened up that is equipped to deal with his psychological problems, but he chose to reapply for euthanasia regardless.
Last year he told a television documentary “If people commit a sexual crime, help them to deal with it. Just locking them up helps no one – neither the individual, society or the victims. I am a human being, and regardless of what I’ve done, I remain a human being. So, yes, give me euthanasia.”
However, the family of Miss Remacle is dismayed by the decision. One of her two older sisters, Annie, has told a Dutch newspaper: “Commissions, doctors and experts have spent so long considering the ups and downs of the life of the murderer of our sister. In all those years, no committee ever asked our parents or us how we felt.
“No doctor or expert ever came and asked how we were. And then we hear his lawyer on the radio saying how tough it was for him to be abandoned in prison.”
Christine’s sisters have previously told the media that they would like to see Van Den Bleeken “languish in prison” rather than be allowed a get-out clause.
As in the Netherlands, euthanasia cases in Belgium have seen a sharp increase in recent years. In 2013, which is the last full year records are available, there were 1,807 cases, up 27 percent on the year before. More than a third were for under 60 year olds. The majority are still for terminal illness or pain, but last year 67 people were euthanized due to mental health problems. In February, the right to euthanasia was extended to terminally ill children, as long as their parents gave consent.