BRUSSELS, March 21 (Reuters) – Belgian lawmakers have agreed on a draft law to legalise euthanasia in certain cases, subject to approval by parliament later this year.
Tuesday’s vote was split 17 to 12 with one abstention.
The law, under consideration for about a year, has been subject to public hearings, beginning last May, and to considerable legal wrangling, with the Christian Democrats staunchly opposed to legalisation and the Socialist-Liberal-Green coalition advocating the right-to-die.
If passed, it would make Belgium the second country after the Netherlands to vote to legalise euthanasia. The Belgian proposal is similar to the Dutch legislation.
Senators from two parliamentary working groups agreed to the final text of a draft law to legalise two types of requests for euthanasia – by terminally ill patients and by patients with incurable diseases who may have years to live but are in extreme pain.
The draft legislation is expected to be presented to the upper house of parliament within the next month, said Senator Frans Lozea, who took part in the debate.
“The lower house will then vote quite quickly afterwards,” Lozea told Reuters on Wednesday. The government has given politicians a free vote on this issue, meaning they are not bound by their party’s position.
Under the proposed legislation, requests for euthanasia must be made by a patient who is conscious when making an active, voluntary demand. The request must also be persistently repeated.