Final arguments submitted in euthanasia case at top European court

Tom Mortier

STRASBOURG (20 July 2020) – On Friday, ADF International submitted what could be the final legal arguments on behalf of Tom Mortier in his case against Belgium at the European Court of Human Rights. The case is Mr Mortier’s last chance to seek justice for the loss of his mother who was euthanized by lethal injection in 2012. ADF International argues that the Belgian euthanasia law fails to protect the fundamental right to life. The filing identifies clear violations of the law based on documents the authorities previously refused to release to Mr Mortier.

“International law has never established a so-called ‘right to die.’ On the contrary, it solidly affirms the right to life – particularly for the most vulnerable among us. One look at the tragic facts of this case exposes the lie that euthanasia is good for society. The sick, suffering, elderly, and vulnerable in our society deserve the utmost respect and care. As this case reaches its final stage, we hope that it will bring Tom some small measure of justice, and help protect others,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International and lead counsel for Tom Mortier.

Background to the case

The Belgian law specifies that the person must be in a ‘medically futile condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious and incurable disorder caused by illness or accident.’ Tom’s mother was physically healthy, and her treating psychiatrist of more than 20 years did not believe that she satisfied the legal requirements of the Belgian euthanasia law. Nonetheless, she was euthanized in 2012 by an oncologist with no known psychiatric qualifications.

The same doctor who euthanized her co-chairs the Federal Commission which reviews euthanasia cases to ensure the law has been respected. He also leads a euthanasia organization which received a payment from Tom Mortier’s mother in the weeks preceding her death. Despite all this, according to the Belgian government, the Federal Commission voted “unanimously” to approve the euthanasia in this case.

Mortier was informed the day after his mother had been euthanized with the explanation that she had been suffering with ‘untreatable depression’.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002. In 2014, the law was amended to include children with no lower age limit. The youngest child to be euthanized in Belgium was only 9 years old. Between 2003 and 2018 the number of people euthanized grew by about 1000%.

The reality of euthanasia laws for society

“The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium, and we see the tragic consequences in this case. According to the most recent government report, more than six people per day are euthanized in this way, and that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. The figures expose the truth that, once these laws are passed, the impact of euthanasia cannot be controlled. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that, at best, implicitly tells the most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.

Mortier v. Belgium has the potential to set a precedent for euthanasia laws across Europe. The Court’s decision can affect more than 820 million Europeans across the 47 Council of Europe Member States subject to its rulings.

Affirm Dignity | End Euthanasia

In 2019, ADF International launched the global Affirm Dignity | End Euthanasia campaign. It informs about the reality of euthanasia through personal stories and testimonies, ongoing legal cases, and research into the impact of euthanasia on individuals and society. It encourages people all over the world to speak up for the right to life and affirm every person’s inherent dignity.

Visit to access a wide range of resources, to engage by signing the Affirm Dignity | End Euthanasia Charter, and to share the campaign on social media.