Frank Van Den Bleeken is a Belgian prisoner serving a life term for murder and rape. In 2011, under Belgium’s euthanasia law, he invoked his ‘right to die’ – not because he is terminally ill, but due to his “unbearable psychological anguish”. Last year, the Belgian Federal Euthanasia Commission agreed to his request.

Early this year, it was decided that Van Den Bleeken should be transferred to a psychiatric ward instead, but as Tom Wilson notes in a piece for First Things, this was because of procedural issues “not because anyone in authority thought there was anything inherently wrong with what he was asking for”:

 “…this is just the latest high profile euthanasia case to have come out of Belgium in recent years. Many of these cases have been unspeakably sad. There was the individual who chose to be euthanized following a sex change operation, but who spoke mostly of having been unwanted as a child. And then there were the Vebessem twins who had lived all their lives together, both deaf, but who feared they might also go blind. Following these cases, the Belgian parliament determined that euthanasia is such a universal good that it should be made available for children.

“…in neighboring Holland, sickly infants are now being killed on the grounds that it is distressing for parents to watch them suffering, and the Royal Dutch Medical Association estimates that 650 such newborns are terminated each year.”

Euthanasia is being sold in this country as an act of mercy for people who will soon die anyway. However, the European example suggests that the practice would not be limited to the terminally ill:

“In those countries that have legalized euthanasia (Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg) the numbers seeking the procedure are spiraling ever upward… In Holland, it has been estimated that 12.3 percent of all deaths are now via euthanasia, with the number of mentally ill patients killed by this method having trebled in the space of a year. In all, it is thought there were around six thousand cases in 2014. Recent incidents included one woman with an eating disorder, and another claiming to be suffering from tinnitus left behind two teenage children.”

(Here, in the Telegraph this week, is further disturbing example.)

That this should be happening at the heart of Europe is no surprise, argues Tom Wilson. The embrace of euthanasia is symptomatic of the Europe’s rejection of its Judaeo-Christian traditions, he says.

He also sees a connection between euthanasia and the continent’s plummeting birth rates:

“Notably, as European’s increasingly embrace death as a lifestyle choice, so too are they choosing against birth and procreation. The average birth rate for European Union nations now stands at just 1.55 births per woman, and in several countries it is still lower. This evident disinterest in perpetuating new life is surely fundamentally linked to Europe’s permissive attitude on euthanasia.”

In the absence of a prevailing moral objection, there is a chilling economic rationale for the spread of euthanasia. By accepting – and promoting – the right to die, the state acquires a new means of freeing-up space in hospitals, care homes and even prisons.

Europe is a diverse place, of course. The generally more religious southern countries are likely to be more resistant to euthanasia laws than the more secular north. But will that be tolerated in the context of creeping fiscal union? I doubt that Dutch taxpayers will want to pay for the care of Greek grandmothers when their own old folks are taking care not to be ‘a burden’.