Belgium: Euthanasia for minors and dementia sufferers: discussions resume

Publié le : 8 November 2013

 On Wednesday 6 November, whilst discussions resumed in the Belgian Senate about the draft law to extend euthanasia to minors and dementia sufferers, 16 paediatricians from various Belgian hospitals called on senators "to make euthanasia legal for minors" in an open letter published to the daily newspapers, Le Soir and Morgen. They explained that: "Every decision to end a person’s life is a humanitarian act that is carried out only as a last resort. Why should minors be deprived of this ultimate option?" Justifying his approach, Dominique Biarent, Head of the Intensive Care Unit at the Hôpital Universitaire des Enfants Reine Fabiola (Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital) in Brussels went on to add: "We really want to be able to work smoothly but when, unfortunately, there are requests for euthanasia, we don’t want to come up against problems because this is illegal […]. Obviously, we are not asking to extend a philosophy to children but we simply want to listen to what they have to say about their suffering and respond to that suffering".  

At the same time, however, representatives of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in Belgium joined forces on Wednesday to publicly voice their opposition to this draft law and their concern vis-à-vis the risk of "trivialising" euthanasia. Whilst declaring their opposition to "both physical and moral suffering", they drew attention to the fact that "giving minors the choice to make decisions about euthanasia would alter their ability to pass judgement and therefore, ‘their freedom’ ". Similarly, giving this option to dementia sufferers would be tantamount to "denying them their dignity". As regards the medical profession, the religious representatives spoke out against "the pressure placed on doctors to carry out a ‘so-called medical’ procedure" and deplore the fact that the debate is centred on the people who are actually suffering and not their next of kin. For representatives of various religious cults, "euthanasia in the case of sick people, children or dementia sufferers is a radical contradiction of their human condition".  They concluded that, "we cannot be part of a logic that leads to the destruction of the very fabric of society". 

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