He’s not terminally ill, he just finds the prospect of life in prison unbearable, so Belgium’s going to put him down and call it a mercy killing. Fun fact: They haven’t executed anyone as punishment for a crime in more than 60 years and haven’t executed anyone for a crime committed during peacetime in nearly 100. The death penalty was formally abolished there almost 20 years ago. But they’re killing upwards of 1,800 people a year, including children, for “compassionate” reasons. Again: Terminal illness not required.

Maybe drop an asterisk alongside the next liberal lecture on Europeans as moral stalwarts against state executions, no?

Belgium has seen a fast growth in the number of cases of euthanasia, and has expanded the practice beyond terminally ill adults. It can now be used in cases of intense pain and psychological distress, while last February the right to euthanasia was extended to terminally ill children, as long as their parents gave consent…

Van Den Bleeken raped Christiane Remacle, a 19-year-old girl, as she came home from a New Year’s Eve party on January 1 1989, and then strangled her with one of her own stockings.

He was deemed insane and not criminally responsible. After seven years on a prison psychiatric ward, he was released, attacking three more victims, aged 11, 17, and 29, within weeks…

He told a television documentary last year: “If people commit a sexual crime, help them to deal with it. Just locking them up helps no one – neither the individual, society or the victims.”

How does the state justify “euthanizing” a prisoner whom it refuses to kill as a matter of retributive justice? Presumably in terms of choice: This isn’t a sentence being imposed on Van Den Bleeken against his will, it’s a “treatment” he’s willingly seeking. Or … is he? How confident are you that a guy who, by his own admission, can’t restrain his compulsion to rape has his sh*t together mentally well enough to make a rational decision about euthanasia? (How confident are you that terminally ill children, under the heavy influence of their parents, can make that decision freely and rationally?) Gary Gilmore was in roughly the same position as this degenerate and preferred to be executed expeditiously by the state to serving life behind bars. A lot of death-penalty opponents fought hard to keep him alive, against his wishes. If Gilmore had called his execution “euthanasia,” would that have solved the problem?

Also, why allow this turd a reprieve from the maximum sentence imposed by Belgian law, one he richly deserves? The fascinating novelty of this case is how it transforms de facto capital punishment into a weird sort of commutation for Van Den Bleeken. The family of the woman he killed is outraged, in fact, that he’s being given a compassionate “out” from the torment of life behind bars. He’s supposed to find his life sentence excruciating; that’s the point of punishment, right? Instead we have here a bizarre inversion of the usual formula, treating life in prison as a penalty so severe that death becomes the merciful alternative. That’s an … interesting twist on “enlightenment.” Can’t wait to see which exciting new places they take this precedent next.