warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Belgium Proposes Euthanasia Bill For Children

Arash Zandi |
November 1, 2013 | 4:22 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

One of the ways that euthanasia is administered is via syringes (Flickr)
One of the ways that euthanasia is administered is via syringes (Flickr)
Should children be allowed to ask for their own deaths?

In Belgium, where euthanasia is legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering a bill that would extend this legality to children which is something no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia. Advocates for the bill argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in an especially painful situation. But opponents to the bill have doubted whether children can reasonably decide to end their own lives.

Belgium is one of the pioneers of voluntary euthanasia as it legalized the procedure for adults in 2002, which typically involves doctors giving patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart. Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal under specific circumstances and for children over the age of 12 with parental consent. The other country in Europe that legalizes euthanasia is Luxembourg. Assisted suicide, the process of doctors helping patients to die but not explicitly killing them, is legal in Switzerland. In the United States, the state of Oregon allows suicide requests for residents aged 18 or over with a terminal illness. Assisted suicide is legal in the states of Washington, Vermont and Montana.

READ MORE: Dr. Kevorkian, Supporter Of Physician-Assisted Suicides, Dead At 83

In Belgium, the ruling Socialist party has introduced the bill expanding the right of euthanasia. The Christian Democratic Flemish party has vowed to oppose the bill and challenge it in the European Court of Human Rights if it passes. A final decision has to be approved by Parliament and may take months.

The section of the bill regarding people with dementia is also causing controversy. People can make a written declaration that they wish to be euthanized if their health deteriorates, but the request is only valid for five years and they must be in an irreversible coma. The bill would abolish the time limit and the requirement that the patient be in a coma, making it possible for someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease to be put to death some years later in the future.

Reach Executive Producer Arash Zandi here. Follow him on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.