A terminally ill minor has become the first minor to be euthanised in Belgium since age restrictions on such mercy killings in the country were lifted in 2014, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The head of the federal euthanasia commission gave no details of the minor beyond saying it was an exceptional case of a child with a terminal illness, the Het Nieuwsblad reported.
VRT public television said the incident involved an adolescent who was about to turn 18.
“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,” Wim Distelmans told the newspaper.
Since 2014, when its euthanasia legislation was amended, Belgium has been the only country in the world that allows terminally-ill children of any age to choose to end their suffering–as long as they are conscious and capable of making rational decisions.
The Netherlands also allows mercy killings for children, but only for those aged over 12.
The Belgian amendment, which was passed after heated debate–notably over the meaning of a “capacity of discernment”–offers the possibility of euthanasia to children “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term”.
Any request for euthanasia must be made by the minor, be studied by a team of doctors and an independent psychiatrist or psychologist, and have parental consent.
Jacqueline Herremans, head of the Belgian Association for the Right to Die with Dignity and a member of Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission, confirmed to RTBF television that such a statement had been made.
“It was a declaration and not a request, and the intervention was carried out,” she told the Belgian press.