Euthanasia In Belgium: Procedure ‘A Possibility For The Patient, Not A Right’
Belgium and the Netherlands were the first countries in the European Union to authorise euthanasia in 2002. Subsequently, Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal followed suit in 2009, 2021 and 2023, respectively. In France, consideration of a bill has been postponed.
Nonetheless, Belgium has been receiving an increasing number of patients, particularly from France, seeking to end their lives there. Last year, more than 70 French people crossed the border into Belgium for the (still-highly controversial) procedure.
Three Conditions To Obtain Euthanasia
Belgian law allows foreign nationals to submit a request for euthanasia in the country. While foreign patients remain a minority, requests for the procedure are on the rise. However, the decision does not come without conditions. Belgian law specifies three important conditions.
In order to obtain euthanasia in Belgium, the request must be voluntary, considered and repeated, the patient must be experiencing unbearable suffering, and the suffering must be the outcome of an incurable and serious illness.
Two different doctors must verify that these conditions are met. According to Marc Decroly, a general practitioner in Brussels, the procedure is “a possibility for the doctor, not a duty” and “a possibility for the patient, not the right.”
Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, Assisted Dying
While euthanasia is the act of intentionally ending a life to get away from suffering, for example a lethal injection administered by a doctor, assisted suicide refers to intentionally helping another person to kill themselves, for example providing someone with strong sedatives.
In contrast to euthanasia and assisted suicide, assisted dying would apply to terminally ill people only. The term refers to both voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted death, with both encompassing different levels of the doctor’s involvement.