Belgium: What are the controls regarding substances used in euthanasia?

Publié le 28 Feb, 2016

In Belgium, problems surrounding the control of palliative care medicines “are coming to the fore once again” through a proposal regarding legal issues surrounding the storage and transportation of medicinal products used in palliative care. This proposal is led by Federal MP Ine Somers who wishes to draw attention “to the need, for reasons of public safety, to have a registration system in order to establish where, for whom and by whom [the medication] is used”. She also wants “surplus medication to be returned and destroyed in order to create a control system to avoid potential abuse”.


The control of lethal substances used in the practice of euthanasia was the subject in June 2015 of an issue raised by MP Catherine Fonckat the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health.  In fact, since the decriminalisation of euthanasia in Belgium 14 years ago, “no Royal Decree has been granted to set criteria to ensure that caution is exercised and certain conditions are met regarding the prescription and dispensing of medication to be used for the purposes of euthanasia”.Pharmacists do not have to check the identity of the prescribing physician “statistics concerning the number of doctors who have visited pharmacies to obtain the substance in question are not available”. Checks by the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Care Products are apparently “inexistent”?


The proposal put forward by Ine Somers in an attempt to resolve the situation suggests that “nurses belonging to a mobile domestic palliative care could be given an ‘emergency kit’” containing “analgesics, for instance”. However, nurses do not agree.  “We are not employed to dispense drugs. Pharmacists are responsible for that. Furthermore, we do not want doctors to lose their commitment to treat a patient based on anticipated pain management”.



Institut Européen de Bioéthique (16/02/2016  et 22/02/2016)

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