Senate committee votes in favour of euthanasia for minors
Belgium’s Senate committee of justice and social affairs has approved a measure to extend euthanasia to minors. If confirmed by the Senate and House, Belgium would be the second country in the world with such a law
Full Senate expected to approve the measure next month
The approval of the Senate committees means the law is likely to be approved by the Senate in its plenary session in the middle of next month. Then it would move to the House of Representatives for approval in the new year. If approved by both, Belgium will become the second country in the world – following the Netherlands – to allow euthanasia for minors.
The new law would extend the right to euthanasia to those under the age of 18 considered fit to make the decision and who are undergoing intolerable and irreversible physical suffering due to an incurable condition, arising as a result of an accident or illness. In principle, the extension is only partial; the euthanasia law for adults has already been used in cases of mental suffering and in cases where the person’s condition was not terminal.
In cases where the minor is not considered fit to make the decision alone, the advice of a child psychiatrist or psychologist is required. In all cases, parents or legal guardians must approve the minor’s request.
The final text of the bill resisted several attempts to amend. CD&V tried to impose a minimum age of 15 years; Ecolo wanted to remove the need for parental consent; Vlaams Belang tried to introduce a right to palliative care. CD&V criticised the text of the measure, describing it as “messy”, particularly regarding the question of fitness to decide.
The committee also voted yesterday on a measure to extend euthanasia rights to those suffering from dementia, which did not pass.
The right to euthanasia has existed in Belgium since 2002, when the country became the second in the world to adopt it, following the Netherlands. In the first full year after the adoption of the law, there were 235 cases. Last year the number had gone up to more than 1,500.
image credit: Corbis