A Belgian murderer and serial rapist is set to die next week in Belgium — at his own request.
Frank Van Den Bleeken, raped and strangled 19-year-old Christiane Remacle on New Year’s Eve in 1989, but avoided criminal responsibility after a court ruled him insane. He spent seven years in a psychiatric ward, only to be released and immediately embark on a spree of additional assaults, including one against an 11-year-old. Since then, he has has remained behind bars, being allowed to leave only once for his mother’s funeral.
Now, Van Den Bleeken, who is 51 years old and not physically ill, claims his psychological torment is so great that he would rather die than spend the remainder of his life in prison. With no prospect of curing what he says are overpowering sexual urges, Van Den Bleeken has repeatedly sought to legally end his life through Belgium’s liberal euthanasia laws. His request was approved in September, and over the weekend officials gave the final go-ahead for him to be taken to a hospital and given a voluntary lethal injection.
Van Den Bleeken’s impending death has angered Remacle’s two surviving sisters, who see his suicide as a get-out-of-jail free card. The killer, they have said previously, should instead be compelled to “languish in prison.”
“No doctor or expert ever came and asked how we were,” Annie Remacle told a Dutch newspaper, according to The Telegraph. “And then we hear his lawyer on the radio saying how tough it was for him to be abandoned in prison.”
Other critics say the prisoner’s impending suicide reflect the failures of Belgium’s mental health care for inmates. Van Den Bleeken has repeatedly insisted that if he were provided proper counseling and medication, he would stop seeking to kill himself.
While Van Den Bleeken is the first inmate to receive permission to kill himself on psychiatric grounds, he likely will not be the last. At least 15 other prisoners have submitted applications after him, and following his death even more are expected.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002. Originally only available to adults with terminal illnesses, the practice is now allowed for those who claim unbearable psychological suffering, as well as terminally ill children whose parents give consent. It has been growing rapidly in popularity, with nearly 2,000 people choosing to die by euthanasia in 2013.
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