April 18, 2024

Should 12-year-old Belgian kids be able to choose euthanasia?

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium under certain conditions, but not for minors, boys and girls under 18. Now the upper house of the Belgian parliament is studying whether to extend the privilege of euthanasia to them as well.

A bit to their surprise, the senators discovered that active euthanasia is taking place already, quite illegally. That is precisely why an extension of the age limit is needed, Dominique Biarent, head of intensive care at Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital in Brussels, told a Senate committee. It happens so regularly that doctors need a legal framework for carrying out their job. This was confirmed by a colleague, Joris Verlooy, from the University Hospital of Ghent. In view of the illegality of these acts, however, he had to be “très prudent”, very circumspect in discussing the matter.

At what age should children be able to choose euthanasia? The Flemish commissioner for the rights of the child, Bruno Vanobbergen, has suggested 12 years with the permission of parents and 16 without. His Francophone counterpart, Bernard De Vos, suggests that the age for making an autonomous decision should be 15. 

Michael Cook
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