Belgium reports first case of euthanasia for a minor
Belgium is the only country in the world that allows euthanasia on minors
A file picture showing an ‘euthanasia kit’ available in Belgian chemists for general practitioners who want to practise euthanasias at the patients’ homes. Photograph: Getty
A 17-year-old has been euthanised in Belgium in what is the first application of rules adopted by the country in 2014 allowing doctor-assisted death for minors of all ages, the head of the national committee for euthanasia said on Saturday.
Wim Distelmans, who chairs Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia, said in an emailed statement that the first case was reported to his committee by a local doctor last week.
He said the minor was 17 years old, but gave no other details.
Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, and two years ago amended the rules to permit doctor-assisted death for minors in a hopeless medical situation and with their explicit consent.
It is the only country in the world allowing euthanasia on minors of all ages. In the neighbouring Netherlands the practice is legal for children aged at least 12.
The Belgian law allows euthanasia for minors under strict conditions. Minors have to be conscious and able to make rationale decisions when they request assisted death. Psychologists or psychiatrists must be consulted and the authorisation of the parents is required.
To undergo euthanasia, the minor must also be in a “terminal medical situation with constant and unbearable physical pain which cannot be assuaged and that will cause death in the short term,” the law says.
Between 2003 and 2013, the number of patients being euthanised in Belgium rose nearly eight-fold to a total number of 8,752 cases, according to records of the national euthanasia control committee.