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Legal situation

In short

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are, unlike in the Netherlands, not mentioned as such in the Belgian Penal Code. However, they can be classified as crimes and are in first instance punishable. Since 2002, these acts are allowed by law when they are performed by a physician who fulfills the requirements of the law. In Belgium, euthanasia is also applicable for minors, although extra requirements must be met in such a situation. Every person in Belgium has the right to refuse treatment. Also palliative care and palliative sedation are seen as good medical practice in Belgium.  

Penal Code

Euthanasia can be classified as manslaughter (art. 393), murder (art. 394) or poisoning (art. 397) of the Belgian Penal Code.  

Assisted suicide and the provision of lethal drugs can be punished, based on the notion that it is a citizen’s duty to help a person in great danger. This is laid down in articles 422bis and 422ter of the Penal Code. A person who does not fulfill this duty can be punished by 8 days to a year imprisonment.

With the introduction of the Law regarding euthanasia, the question arose whether this law also covered assisted suicide, as assisted suicide is not explicitly mentioned in the Belgium euthanasia law. This question is answered positively by the Belgian Council of state (Raad van State), the order of physicians and the Belgian review committees. 

Law regarding euthanasia (2002) 

This law stipulates that euthanasia is not a crime, provided that it is performed by a doctor who has assured himself that:

  • the patient is an adult or emancipated minor who is legally competent and aware at the time of his request;
  • the request is voluntary, considered and repeated, and was not made as a result of any external pressure;
  • the patient is in a medically desperate state of persistent and unbearable physical or psychological suffering that cannot be alleviated and that is the result of a serious and incurable disease or accident-induced condition.

An advance directive is legally valid; this must be renewed every five years. A request for euthanasia must be submitted in writing and this written request must be kept by two intimates. They must also be present when the advance directive is drawn up and one of the two must not benefit in the event of the death of the author. 

Since 2014, the age limit (subject to parental consent) for euthanasia has been dropped. Instead, the term “competent” has come. When a minor requests for euthanasia extra guarantees are required. And also when a person is not assumed to die within foreseeable time, an extra physician should be consulted, just as a psychiatrist. (Article 3 paragraph 3)

Law Regarding Patients Rights

Since 2002, The Law Regarding Patients Rights has come into force in Belgium. Article 8, par 4 of this law stipulates that every person in Belgium has the right to refuse treatment. Read the law below

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