A Belgian father of four young children told media he is seeking assisted suicide because he cannot afford life-saving medication. The Belgian news outlet RTL reports that Chrisophe (last name withheld) has considered assisted suicide for three years because he cannot afford medication that would allow him to function in everyday life. Over the past year he has begun the steps to end his life in a state-sanctioned assisted suicide.
Christophe suffers from a rare degenerative blood disorder called paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. BioEdge reports that the condition, which occurs in only 1 to 2 per million people, can only be treated by bone marrow transplant or a medication called Eculizumab (or Soliris), which can cost around 50,000 euros for a six month supply. Christophe’s family was evaluated for compatibility for a bone marrow transplant, but a good match was not found. The expensive drug treatment does not meet the criteria required for reimbursement under the Belgian health care system.
RTL reports that Christophe was diagnosed with the condition at 17. Life expectancy is about 5 to 20 years at the time of diagnosis, but Christophe told RTL that he managed to live a normal life with the condition for some years. Recently, the progression of the illness has left him unable to function in ordinary life and frequently hospitalized. The condition results in fatigue, fainting, thrombosis, and painfully swollen lymph nodes.
As he lost his job and lost more of his daily functions, Christophe separated from the mother of his children and now lives alone. His four children, aged four to 10-years-old, visit him on weekends. Christophe’s parents must be present while the children visit him, because the blood disorder could cause Christophe to grow weak, faint, or fall into a coma at any time.
Although the medication would not cure his condition, the treatment would slow the progression of the disease, reducing symptoms of the disease and likely adding years to Christophe’s life. He said, “It would not save me but it could make me live a decade more with my children.” He added, “What really hurts me is that I know they will lose me.”
Because of the healthcare system’s refusal to pay for the medication, Christophe says public health officials “let people die in Belgium.” More than letting people die, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and states where assisted suicide is legal are actively encouraging people to choose death. Assisted suicide is a cost-effective “treatment” when compared with expensive experimental drugs or surgeries. Increasingly, places in which patients can choose to die by assisted suicide are becoming places in which suicide is the only option offered.
Describing his current life, Christophe says, “I sleep all the time, that’s why I’m waiting for euthanasia, I’m waiting for the answer … because if I can only live like this … like a vegetable.”
Although many people mistakenly believe that assisted suicide laws are crafted to protect patients and allow only those suffering tremendous pain during a fatal illness to opt for a premature death by assisted suicide, the reality is quite different. First, many studies show that the reasons patients choose assisted suicide is not pain or illness but feelings of despair. Like Christophe, many other patients seeking assisted suicide do so because they no longer feel their lives are worth living. With proper treatment, especially treatment that addresses mental health, assisted suicide is no longer attractive. Second, assisted suicide laws are written with loopholes that most people do not realize. In these anti-Life laws, the inability to afford life-saving treatment is considered a terminal condition that allows for assisted suicide. As these inhumane laws become more widespread, there will be many patients like Christophe, abandoned by the medical system and pushed toward ending their lives with the assistance of the practitioners meant to help them live.
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