Belgium authorities have informed about the assisted death of a seventeen-year-old minor who was suffering from a terminal disease. This is the first case of an assisted child death since the country removed age restrictions in 2014.
Euthanasia has always been a controversial subject, but Belgium is so far the only country that allows children of any age to be euthanized if suffering from a terminal disease.
In Belgium, a patient of any age can choose to end its life by requesting it to the state which passes the case to the Euthanasia Commission. The case is analyzed, and a psychiatric evaluation is made on the patient to prove it has “rational decision making,” the parents or guardians of the child must provide their consent as well.
According to authorities, the teenager was soon to be eighteen years old, but the decision was made because the minor had been “suffering from unbearable physical pain.”
On Saturday Belgium’s national committee for euthanasia informed of the 17-year old’s decision after the case was reported by a local doctor a week before. Wims Distelmans, who chairs the evaluation committee for euthanasia in the country informed Reuters about the terminal disease of the minor.
According to Distelmans, the teenage opted for a “palliative sedation,” which consists of a lethal injection that puts the patient in a permanent coma before ending its life. This is the first time a minor has decided on euthanasia in the country.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002, allowing patients to have a decision over their lives when suffering from a deadly disease, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the country decided anyone in the country regardless of age could opt for the procedure.
The law passed in parliament over an 86 to 44 vote in the House of Representatives in the country, becoming the only country in the world that allows legal euthanasia for kids twelve and older. Twelve members of the House of Representatives abstained from voting on the decision. At the time, several local pediatricians disagreed with the decision, as well as the Catholic cleric in the country.
Twelve members of the House of Representatives abstained from voting on the decision. At the time, several local pediatricians disagreed with the decision, as well as the Catholic cleric in the country.
However, this is not an easy decision, to continue with the assisted death the physician must inform the state and discuss the case with the patient’s parents or guardians. The case is then written down, and psychological help is offered for the parents before and after the procedure.
Euthanasia is allowed in a patient that has a terminal medical situation, and that deals with a constant and unbearable physical pain that can’t be treated or softened, the patient must also be near death.
“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,” said Distelmans to a local newspaper called Het Nieuwsblad.
Since the law was modified the number of euthanasia cases has become bigger in Belgium, in 2013 the number of patients was 1,000 but after the law passed some 8,752 patients has been recorded in the country.
Terms for euthanasia
The are three different terms used when euthanasia is being discussed, just as the BBC reports.
Euthanasia is described as the action and decision made by someone of ending their lives as a way to alleviate a disease or a constant pain that is dangering their lives and has no cure. It is commonly used by terminal patients taking a lethal injection.
Assisted dying is a term employed in the United Kingdom and the United States, for allowing elderly adults or physically challenged people to make the decision of dying with medical help. Recently the UK declined the plans to pass this method by a vote of 330 against 118.
Assisted suicide, is when someone helps a person who is not dying with the decision of ending its life by providing certain supplements or methods to continue with the action.
Euthanasia in the world
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is also legal for minors but competent patients between the ages of sixteen and eighteen just as in Belgium parents must be asked before the case is evaluated but they don’t carry the final decision.
The country also allows patients younger than sixteen but parents must give their permission and a psychological evaluation needs to be made before the decision is made. The Netherlands has a low euthanasia rate, taking only 2.8 percent of all deaths in the country according to the BBC’s report.
Other countries such as Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Colombia have allowed euthanasia as a legal procedure in their countries, with common restrictions like being a terminally ill patient. Canada allows patients to have a doctor-assisted death in terminal cases.
In the United States euthanasia has been discussed and argued, the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont have approved assisted dying with California joining them just last year.
Source: The Guardian