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Should the Euthanasia Act in Belgium include minors?

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael




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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 28, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 23, 2018
Publication Date Mar 1, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 16, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 16, 2018
Print ISSN 0031-5982
Publisher Johns Hopkins University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 61
Issue 2
Pages 230-248
Keywords abuse, age, autonomy, Belgium, children, competence, euthanasia, maturity, palliative care
Public URL
Publisher URL


Article (527 Kb)

Copyright Statement
&copy;2018 The Author<br /> <br /> This is the accepted version of an article published in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine.

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