Constitutional Court upholds euthanasia for minors

Summary

Belgium’s Constitutional Court has rejected a challenge to the extension of the euthanasia law to minors, approved last year

Strict conditions

The Constitutional Court has rejected a motion brought by three organisations against the law that permits euthanasia for minors in Belgium. The court in its ruling did stress the conditions under which euthanasia can take place.

The case was filed by Jurileven, Pro Vita and Jongeren voor Leven against the law that came into force in early 2014 that extends the right to euthanasia to those under the age of 18. The court rejected the case but stressed the strict conditions under which the procedure can be carried out.

An independent child psychiatrist or psychologist must first decide whether the minor in question is fit to make the decision to request euthanasia. Then the advice of a second physician must confirm that the child is suffering from an incurable condition that is causing intolerable suffering. In the case of adults, this advice is not binding; in the case of children, the court has ruled, the advice is required for euthanasia to take place.

The court also rejected the organisations’ argument that the law was invalid because it does not specify a minimum age. There are currently no cases pending in which minors are in the process of seeking permission for euthanasia.

In related news, the federal control and evaluation commission for euthanasia has for the first time sent a case file to the federal prosecutor for investigation, chair Wim Distelmans has announced. The case concerns a woman in her 80s who was euthanised in June this year, after claiming she could not go on living after the death of her daughter three months earlier.

According to the commission, the conditions for approving euthanasia were not met. The woman’s case was the subject of a documentary on Australian television, which recorded the end of her life.