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Euthanasia : A summary of the legal framework law of May 28, 2002

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[English] 22/07/2013

The Belgian law provides for 2 specific instances of euthanasia

1) Patients who are conscious

 In the case of a conscious patient in the final stage of his/her illness, euthanasia may take place if :

  • the patient is an adult or a minor who has been granted adult legal status and is deemed to be in his/ her right mind and therefore able to express his/her wishes;
  • the request has been made on a voluntary, thoughtful and repeated basis and does not arise from being pressured into it; the request has to be made in writing;
  •  the medical situation does not allow for a positive outlook and causes constant and unbearable physical OR psychological suffering which cannot be alleviated and is caused by a life-threatening and incurable accidental or pathological illness;
  •  the medical practitioner has talked to his/her patient on various occasions about his/her state of health, his/her life expectancy, his/her request for euthanasia; the medical practitioner must discuss the possible options available to his/her patient regarding both therapeutic treatment of the illness and the palliative care available and the consequences thereof;
  • the medical practitioner has consulted another independent and competent medical practitioner who has drawn up a report setting out his/her findings;
  • the medical practitioner has discussed his/her patient’s request with the medical team treating the patient and with the patient’s close family, if the patient so requests;
  • after euthanasia, the medical practitioner fills out both pages of the form designed to ascertain the legality of the afore-mentioned act.

 

If the conscious patient is not in the final stage of his/her illness, two further conditions apply, as set out below :

  • the medical practitioner must consult a second independent medical practitioner, psychiatrist or a medical practitioner specialized in the relevant pathology;
  • the period of reflection required between the patient’s written request and the act of euthanasia has to be at least one month.

2) Patients who are NOT conscious, 

Euthanasia can take place if :

  • the person is an adult or a minor who has been granted adult legal status;
  • the person is not conscious and the situation is irreversible according to current medical knowledge;
  • the person is suffering from a life-threatening and incurable accidental or pathological illness;
  • the person has drawn up and signed a declaration in advance requesting euthanasia; this declaration is valid for a period of 5 years and may appoint one or several reliable individuals who have been entrusted with voicing the patient’s wishes;
  • the medical practitioner has consulted another independent doctor;
  • the medical practitioner has discussed the declaration, which was drawn up and signed by the patient in advance, with the patient’s medical team and any close family members;
  • after euthanasia, the medical practitioner fills out both pages of the form designed to ascertain the legality of the afore-mentioned act.

In all events, the law also includes a “conscience clause”, which states that no medical practitioner is obliged to carry out euthanasia and that no other person is obliged to be a party thereto (Article 14 ).

 

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