In 2014, Belgium became the first country in the world to legislate euthanasia for children. The decision evoked questions and criticisms in Belgium and in the world at large: should children have the right to ask to die? Are children able to make reasoned and independent choices on such an important matter? Does maturity matter? Are children as autonomous as adults? Is it a logical move to grant terminally ill children who are in intolerable pain this right? What happens if there is a conflict of wishes between the child and parents? This article argues that these questions should be addressed while legislators are fully aware of the relevant medical data regarding child development. The article weighs arguments for and against euthanasia for children, dis [End Page 230] cussing patients' autonomy, competence, age and maturity, pressure and abuse, and palliative care. It is suggested that the option of pediatric palliative care should be exhausted before proceeding to euthanasia, and that psychological counselling be made available to both children and guardians. It is further argued that the law should explicate the age of children, and that it should insist on consensus between children and parents.
Cohen-Almagor, R. (2018). Should the Euthanasia Act in Belgium include minors?. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 61(2), 230-248. https://doi.org/10.1353/pbm.2018.0039