The humane way to treat a serial rapist is to help him live

Rapist and murderer Frank Van Den Bleeken will be given a lethal injection on Sunday after winning the right to be euthanised in a landmark case in Belgium.

In 1989 Van Den Bleeken raped and strangled a 19-year-old girl. He was judged not to be criminally responsible as a result of his mental state. When he was later released from a prison psychiatric ward and attacked again, he was detained indefinitely.

When he first applied to end his life in 2011, on the basis of "unbearable psychological anguish" resulting from his uncontrollable violent sexual urges, Van Den Bleeken said he had not been offered specialist therapy. A specialist centre has since opened in Belgium, but despite this he reapplied and his request to die was granted in September last year.

Although progress has been made, campaigners say that mental health services for inmates are still woefully inadequate. You would have thought that in the intervening years more could have been done to ensure he had access to psychiatric help and do everything possible to help him live.

A similar argument for funding priorities is made by those who argue to improve palliative care provision rather than provide assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Instead he's been helped to die, in a move that sets a concerning precedent for the future.

Van Den Bleeken's is the first case of its kind, but according to one Belgian newspaper another 15 inmates had applied for information on euthanasia by September 2014 when the ruling was announced.

Since euthanasia was first legalised in Belgium in 2002, the law, which says that a patient must be in a "futile medical condition of constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated", has been extended to more people. Most controversially, in February 2014 this right was extended to terminally ill children of any age, provided they had their parents' consent.

There were 1,816 cases of euthanasia reported in 2013, an increase of almost 27 per cent from the previous year. And a similar increase was seen from 2011 to 2012. It isn't that more people are experiencing terminal illness year on year, but that it has become more socially acceptable to hasten your death.

The state of Oregon is often cited as proof that it doesn't have to be a slippery slope – assisted dying was made legal in 1997 and has not progressed to other forms of euthanasia, with the number of people opting to have an assisted death remaining relatively static. But in Belgium, the opposite is true, and a similar pattern has been seen in the Netherlands.

Van Den Bleeken said in a 2014 documentary that he was a danger to society – as, presumably, are all of those who are given a life sentence. He said: "What am I supposed to do? What's the point in sitting here until the end of time and rotting away? I'd rather be euthanised."

The same might be said by anyone who felt their life was over as a consequence of imprisonment without much hope of release. Life imprisonment isn't meant to be fun, after all he was convicted of a heinous crime.

But that doesn't mean we should wish him dead. Van Den Bleeken also said in the documentary: "I am a human being, and regardless of what I've done, I remain a human being. So, yes, give me euthanasia."

Far from reaching the same conclusion, we should ensure that such people live because they are human beings, and human life is God-given. European countries (with the exception of Belarus and Kazakhstan) have abolished the death penalty for numerous reasons – the sanctity of life and the possibility of error to name just two.

We should ensure that euthanasia doesn't become another form of capital punishment, where the error is letting people to think that death is the only, or best, solution.

Lucinda Borkett-Jones is features editor of Christian Today. Follow her on Twitter.