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Belgian Senate proposes to quit age limits in euthanasia law

The Belgian Senate Commission on Justice and Social Affairs has decided to quit the age limit (now 18 year) in the 2002 Belgian Euthanasia Law. A large majority of the commission thinks the right to request euthanasia should also be given to “competent minors”, who suffer unbearably and hopelessly from a physical condition (the current law for over 18 has unbearable and hopeless (psychological) suffering as criterion). A psychological or psychiatric assessment is a precondition, as is the assent  of parents/guardians.It is expected that in reality competence for such decisions will not be found below the age of around 10 years of age. A Dutch paediatrician – expert in end-of-life decisions of minors – stated: ” Every professional will be in complete agreement that a minor of 4 or 5 years can not take stock of their condition and thus will not be considered to be competent”.

The proposal still has to be approved by the Belgian Lower House before it becomes effective law. It is not expected this chamber will decide otherwise.