Belgium agrees to sex offender's request for mercy killing

The Brussels Court in the Justice Palace in Brussels, on Sept 12, 2014. Belgium, one of only a few countries to allow euthanasia, has accepted a serial rapist's request that he be allowed to die, his lawyer said on Monday. -- PHOTO: AFP
The Brussels Court in the Justice Palace in Brussels, on Sept 12, 2014. Belgium, one of only a few countries to allow euthanasia, has accepted a serial rapist's request that he be allowed to die, his lawyer said on Monday. -- PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgium, one of only a few countries to allow euthanasia, has accepted a serial rapist's request that he be allowed to die, his lawyer said on Monday.

Frank Van Den Bleeken, who has spent the past 30 years in prison for repeated rape convictions and a rape-murder, has for years requested that the state help him end his life due to "unbearable psychic suffering", lawyer Jos Vander Velpen told Belgian television.

Van Den Bleeken is to be transferred from his prison in Bruges to a hospital within the next few days where he will be euthanised, he said.

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, the second country in the world to do so after The Netherlands, and logged a record 1,807 cases of euthanasia in 2013. Its strict conditions for a mercy killing include that patients must be capable, conscious and have presented a "voluntary, considered and repeated" request to die.

Lawyer Vander Velpen said the sex offender met all legal conditions, and for the past four years had felt he "couldn't stand to live like this any longer and could no longer accept the pain".

"I am a human being, and regardless of what I've done, I remain a human being. So, yes, give me euthanasia," Van Den Bleeken said in comments on VRT Flemish Belgian television.

Van Den Bleeken, considering himself a menace to society, had refused to be considered for early parole, but found the conditions of his detention inhumane. He had requested a transfer to a specialised psychiatric centre in The Netherlands for treatment or, failing that, a mercy killing.

Belgian authorities denied the transfer request earlier this year. A source close to the case said Van Den Bleeken had been informed that a new centre providing appropriate psychiatric care would open later this year in Belgium.

But the convict, who in 30 years left prison only once - to attend his mother's funeral - opted to pursue euthanasia, for which he had already received medical approval. A justice ministry spokesman on Monday confirmed the decision.

In February, Belgium became the second country to authorise mercy killing of terminally ill children, a controversial move that sparked heated public debate and protest. The Netherlands allows euthanasia for children aged 12 and over, while Belgium has lifted all restrictions.