Anti-euthanasia campaigners are calling on New Zealand advocates of assisted dying to front up on whether they support the euthanasia of a teenager in Belgium.
The 17-year-old is the first minor to use new right-to-die laws in Belgium, where age restrictions on euthanasia were lifted two years ago.
Doctors in Belgium, can euthanase children of any age if they are incurably ill and experiencing unbearable physical suffering.
As the health Select Committee considers New Zealand's laws on assisted suicide, Care Alliance secretary Matthew Jensen is asking ACT MP David Seymour, Maryan Street, and Matt Vickers - whose wife Lecretia Seales fought for the right to die in court - to say whether they support this case.
Jensen believes that there is no logical place to draw a line in law, and New Zealanders need to know whether the people advocating for a law change here think Belgium has got it right or wrong.
The patient in Belgium, believed to be 17, was described as "critically ill" but no further details were released. The national French-language broadcaster RTBF said the case occurred in a Flemish-speaking area of Belgium.
Belgium is the only country that allows children of all ages to choose euthanasia, provided that parental consent is granted. The Netherlands also permits underage patients to request a doctor-assisted death, but only if they are aged 12 or over.
Professor Wim Distelmans, the head of Belgium's Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia, issued a statement confirming that the first assisted death of a minor was reported to the committee by a doctor last week. "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," Distelmans told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults in 2002. Under Belgian law, a child must be terminally ill, face "unbearable physical suffering" and make repeated requests to die before euthanasia can be carried out. The procedure also requires a psychological evaluation of the patient's mental state. Suffering stemming from psychiatric problems is excluded.
Despite objections by religious leaders and some doctors, who questioned whether children should be allowed to make such a difficult choice, an opinion poll taken a few months before Parliament voted for the change suggested that 75 per cent of Belgians supported euthanasia for minors.
The number of patients choosing to be euthanised in Belgium has risen more than eight-fold since the procedure was legalised, with 2021 cases reported last year.
- Telegraph Group Ltd, Newstalk ZB