Belgian MPs to debate extending euthanasia laws to under-18s and Alzheimer’s patients

The country already has some of the most relaxed laws on medically-assisted suicide in the world

Belgium is set to debate this week whether or not it will extend its laws allowing euthanasia to include children and those suffering from long-term “diseases of the brain” like Alzheimer’s.

The country already has some of the most relaxed rules in the world when it comes to helping people who are suffering to take their own lives, and lawmakers could be about to push those boundaries even further.

Since 2002, any adult in Belgium who is signed off by two doctors as undergoing “unbearable psychological or physical suffering” can consent to be killed, most commonly by an injection of a lethal combination of drugs. Assisted suicides reportedly now account for around 1 per cent of all deaths.

Under the bill being considered, this could be extended to those under 18 if they requested it, their parents gave their consent, and where an expert psychologist deemed the child to fully understand the implications of their decision.

“This is very important because one child that suffers is one too many,” Jean-Jacques De Gucht, MP for the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats party, told the Sunday Times.

“It’s about giving people the right to choose how and when to end their life in dignity,” he said.

According to the newspaper, a recent poll suggested that more than two-thirds of the Belgian public back the new laws.

Under the proposals, medically-assisted euthanasia would also be offered as an option to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Once diagnosed and while still lucid, they would be able to consent to being killed when their illness progressed to the point where doctors decided they were no longer interacting with society – even if on the surface they appeared to be happy and well.

In Europe only Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have laws which allow for euthanasia in extreme circumstances. In Switzerland and Germany, doctors can prepare the necessary lethal injection but the patient must administer it themselves.

Supporters of the euthanasia bill say it would simply be bringing under legal control something which already happens anyway. Studies have shown that, with terminally ill children whose parents are begging for their suffering to be brought to an end, doctors have been steadily increasing doses of painkillers until they reach lethal amounts.

Dr Dominique Biarent, who runs the intensive care unit at a Brussels children’s hospital, told the Wall Street Journal that this does happen, though rarely, and only ever at the initiative of the child’s parents.

“Our goal is to cure,” she said. “It never happens that we're pushing parents. We never say, ‘This morning we're doing euthanasia—yippee!’ It’s a terrible process.”

The Belgian law has come under renewed international focus when a man chose to die last week after he said a failed sex change operation turned him into “a monster”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory