Belgium: euthanasia for minors debated in the Senate

Publié le : 28 February 2013

 In Belgium, on Wednesday, the Senate opened "the debate on euthanasia […] to decide on the appropriateness or not of extending access to it to include minors." First of all, "the senators have to determine the minimum age," sixteen, fifteen or even twelve. These discussions "are likely to last several months and will also cover its extension to adults suffering from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.". This debate was initiated by senators from different parties, including the socialist senator Philippe Mahoux who sponsored the original bill in 2002. He wishes to extend access to euthanasia to minors "if they are mentally competent, afflicted with an incurable disease and enduring unappeasable suffering." Currently in Belgium, the 2002 law applies to people aged over 18 who are mentally competent,afflicted with an incurable disease and enduring unappeasable suffering.

During this first day of debate, medical experts were called before the senators, such as Dominique BIarent, head of the department of Intensive Care and Emergencies at the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital in Brussels who stated: "Euthanasia can only be the ultimate step." She pointed out: "As doctors, our first duty is to take care of people. Our objective is always to seek to cure the patient. But of course the second objective is to take care of them. Taking care of them also involves giving them the conditions to die with dignity."    
Also addressing the senators, Professor Chris Van Geet, a specialist in molecular biology at KUL "wondered about the validity of this reform which raises ‘an enormous ethical problem’." She said she was "in favour of a better management of medical training." Lastly, "the Belgian Catholic church has not concealed its opposition." Its spokesman, Tommy Scholtes, stated: "whether adults or children are involved, other solutions exist." He explained: "We propose that patients be accompanied with palliative care by the doctors and eventually we propose sedation which is a way of preventing all suffering to the patient."

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