Belgium moves to allow children option of euthanasia
A controversial bill that would extend the right to request euthanasia to terminally-ill children and adults with dementia cleared a vote in a Belgian Senate committee today.
The panel voted 13-4 to allow under-18s to request an end to their life under certain conditions.
The vote is one stage in a legislative process — the bill must clear other hurdles before it becomes law.
Dr. Kenneth Chambarae, who is part of the end-of-life research group at Brussels’ Free University, specializing in the impact of legalized euthanasia, said the bill explicitly states that it would be possible only for competent minors suffering unbearable physical pain from a serious physical illness without prospect of improvement to request euthanasia. This is different from adults, who can also request it if they are suffering psychologically.
Chambarae argues the debate in Belgium is more one of principle than anything else — that very few children would ever choose euthanasia but that the law now discriminates against them.
The bill now has to be introduced in the Senate where it will be debated in a plenary meeting by all senators.
If the bill is voted against, this would mean the end of the measure.
If it passes, the bill would then be transferred to the House of Representatives for debate. If approved there, it would go to the king to be signed into law.
Belgium passed legislation in 2002 allowing voluntary euthanasia for adults.