Belgium take first step towards euthanasia for children

Michael Cook
30 Nov 2013
Reproduced with Permission

A bill to legalise euthanasia in Belgium for children and for patients with dementia passed its first legislative hurdle this week. A Senate committee voted 13-4 to approve a first draft.

Dr Kenneth Chambarae, of Brussels' Free University, told CNN that the privilege of euthanasia would only be extended to competent minors who are suffering unbearable physical pain from a serious physical illness without prospect of improvement. Their option would be different from adults, who can request it if they are suffering psychologically.

Dr Chambarae says that the debate is fundamentally about creating an equal playing field for euthanasia. He expects very few children to choose euthanasia, but they should not be discriminated against in law.

In neighbouring Netherlands euthanasia for children as young as 12 is already permitted, although only five cases have been recorded since 2002 (not including infants). But the Belgian law would improve this by removing any reference to the age of the child.