Euthanasia of minors in Belgium: annulment appeal rejected

On October 29, 2015, the Belgian Constitutional Council rejected the annulment appeal of the law of February 28, 2014 which authorizes the euthanasia of minors. The appeal was filed at the issue of the vote by the associations Jurivie, Pro Vita and ‘Youth for Live’ as well as two individuals. The 153/2015 judgment does not invalidate the contested law: “The law of May 28, 2002, as amended by the law which is being attacked, is founded on a fair balance on the one hand, between the right for each person to choose to put an end to his life to avoid an undignified and painful ending, which derives from the right to respect for private life, and on the other hand, the right of minors for measures aiming to prevent abuses such as the practice of euthanasia, deriving from the right to life and physical integrity.”  

Nevertheless with this judgment, the Constitutional Court reinforced the procedure to make sure that the minor is able to exercise good judgment. The law provides that the doctor who receives a euthanasia request for a minor should “consult a child psychiatrist or a psychologist” who “is informed of the medical file, examines the patient, insures that the minor is able to exercise good judgment, and gives an attestation of it in writing”. From now on the report of the specialist consulted must be restrictive, and the latter must be independent of the minor’s general practitioner and of the family members.

These new specifications demonstrate that the system implemented has serious weak points, even though Belgium has been much criticized for this law. Belgian pediatricians, but also international specialists in palliative care, as well as citizen groups had demonstrated against this very controversial law. In the final declaration at the first international Congress for pediatric palliative care in February 2014, experts from 35 countries called “for the Belgian government to urgently reconsider its recent decision” (…). We believe that euthanasia has no part in pediatric palliative therapy and does not constitute an alternative”.

This decision from the Constitutional Counsel comes while the professionals are worried about the lack of means for pediatric palliative care in Belgium.


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