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Euthanasia of minors in Belgium

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[English] 02/03/2015
Auteur / source : Jean-Paul Van De Walle

On 28 February 2014 a law was enacted "amending the Act of 28 May 2002 on euthanasia in order to extend it to minors"1. Belgium thus became the first and only country to authorise euthanasia of minors without specifying that any conditions with respect to their age should be met.

Some people welcomed it, underlining the "pioneering" role Belgium played in establishing a legal framework for euthanasia, which was presented as the ultimate "humanitarian act" of which any patient, major or minor, should be able to take advantage. In contrast, others in Parliament and in civil society opposed the extension of the law. Among these were nearly two hundred paediatricians and paediatric palliative care specialists.

Clearly, the ethical, legal and medical questions that euthanasia raises are no less acute when it comes to approving a request from a minor. This article provides an overview and, after sketching the outline of the new legislation, makes several critical points.