A terminally ill child has become the first minor to be euthanised in Belgium, it has been confirmed. The head of Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission Professor Wim Distelmans said the death was reported to his committee by a local doctor. Since 2014, Belgium has been the only country in the world that allows a child of any age to choose to end their life. Prof Distelmans said the child was suffering from an incurable condition. He told Het Nieuwsblad: “Only in very exceptional and hopeless cases (is) euthanasia of a minor really an option.”
Fortunately there are very few children who are considered (for euthanasia) but that does not mean we should refuse them the right to a dignified death.
Prof Distelmans gave no further details about the child but Reuters news agency has reported the minor was 17 years old. Het Nieuwsblad reports that the euthanised child was Dutch and that the procedure was carried out in the north Belgian region of Flanders. The Netherlands only allows euthanasia on children aged 12 and above. To be permitted doctor-assisted death, Belgian law states that children must be “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term”. The statute was passed after a heated debate over the meaning of a “capacity of discernment” that children are required to have.