Belgian Senate considers extending euthanasia to minors

Wednesday 06 March 2013 22.36
The political debate has been focused on what conditions might apply if the law is relaxed
The political debate has been focused on what conditions might apply if the law is relaxed

The Belgian Senate is to re-open hearings on whether to change the country's law on euthanasia and make it available to people under 18.

Euthanasia for adults has been legal in Belgium since 2002.

There has been pressure for the policy to be also open to minors.

As the Belgian law currently stands, adults who want euthanasia must repeatedly and explicitly show their willingness to end their life.

They must also prove that their decision was taken without external pressure. 

Doctors must be certain the pain they are suffering, whether physical, psychological or both, is caused by a serious and incurable condition, and is constant, unbearable and cannot be mitigated.

Failure to abide by procedures leaves doctors open to be charged with murder if they perform euthanasia.

The political debate has not been focused on whether or not there should be a relaxation of the law, but rather on what conditions might apply.

Some doctors practising in Belgium have given evidence that euthanasia is already being performed on minors.

They have argued that legislators need to afford them legal protection.

However, there have also been strong arguments from some medical professionals and Catholic-run hospitals that euthanasia is wrong, and the current law should not be expanded.