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Euthanasia Doctors Visit ... Auschwitz?

Ultraorthodox Jews in Antwerp have called the physician a 'professional killer'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2014 12:41 PM CST

(Newser) – Wim Distelmans, a Belgian doctor who helps people die and has been nicknamed "Dr. Death," is raising eyebrows again with a trip he recently led to Auschwitz. The doctors, nurses, and psychologists who joined him from Brussels, most of whom also work in the field of euthanasia, were there to reflect on the meaning of "death with dignity," the title of the tour. While the group described Auschwitz as antithetical to their mission—which they say is to "kill out of humility and love"—the trip has angered everyone from ultraorthodox Jews in Antwerp, who call Distelmans a "professional killer," to a German scholar calling him a "murderer." The deputy director of the Auschwitz memorial also called the trip "inappropriate," reports Der Spiegel.

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Belgium legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2002, and last year 1,807 people were euthanized in the European country, making up 2% of all deaths there. Even terminally ill children can now be euthanized, regardless of how young they are, provided they have parental consent and are enduring "constant and unbearable physical suffering." Distelmans doesn't just help his patients die, he also trains others who do. While he reportedly appeared burdened during the trip, the physician stuck to his world view—that performing euthanasia is ultimately an act of unconditional love, and that Auschwitz offers valuable lessons about its opposite. (The removal of any age restriction for euthanasia in Belgium earlier this year was hotly debated.)

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