Belgium one step closer to extending euthanasia to minors

Summary

The Belgian parliament is close to an agreement to extend euthanasia rights to those under the age of 18, under strict conditions

The Belgian government is one step closer to allowing euthanasia for minors. What do you think?

Would be first country in the world with such a law

The Belgian parliament is close to an agreement to extend the right to euthanasia to those under the age of 18. The ruling socialists have put forward new legislation to allow minors the right to euthanasia under certain well-defined conditions.

The change in the law has the support of many local doctors in cases where a minor is suffering from severe pain as a result of a terminal illness. But there is still disagreement among the parties as to whether “psychological suffering” should be expressly excluded from the provisions.

Els Van Hoof of the Flemish Christian Democrats said there was a risk of “unstable teenagers” being given the right to euthanasia. She argued that the law should only be extended to minors suffering unbearably due to terminal illness. The parties still have to reach an agreement on whether parental consent is required in the case of minors.

Belgium was the second country in the world to legalise euthanasia for adults (after the Netherlands) when it passed a law in 2002. Some 1,500 “doctor-assisted deaths” were carried out in Belgium in 2012 compared to 235 in 2003.

If a new law is passed, Belgium will be the first country in the world to grant the right of euthanasia to minors. But it remains a controversial step, with the Catholic Church opposed to the new legislation. “It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in certain areas, such as getting married, but might be able to decide to die,” said Archbishop Léonard.