Tags: Belgium | Legalizes | 'Mercy' | Killings

Belgium Legalizes 'Mercy' Killings

Friday, 17 May 2002 12:00 AM

After two years of heated debate and a marathon voting session lasting two days, the House of Representatives adopted the law Thursday by a vote of 86 to 56, with 10 deputies abstaining. The Senate approved the motion in October.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize mercy killing in legislation passed in April.

The parliament was split between the left-wing governing coalition, which supported the bill, and the center-right opposition, which opposed it.

"People aren't afraid of being dead, but they fear the process of dying," Flemish Green Party Deputy Anne-Mie Descheemaeker told a packed Parliament chamber. "I'm sure that having the option of euthanasia gives people the courage to go on day after day."

Conservative critics of the law said it was open to abuse and violated the sanctity of the right to life. They immediately threatened to challenge the bill in Europe's leading "human rights" court after all the opposition's 100 amendments were rejected by the lower house.

"Today we fought the law with our votes. Tomorrow it will be before the European Court of Human Right in Strasbourg," said Christian Democrat Tony van Parys.

Earlier this month, the court rejected a demand from a terminally ill and paralyzed British woman to end her life. Diane Pretty died Sunday.

The Belgium law applies strict conditions for killing patients. For a mercy killing to take place, patients must be above 18 years of age, in "constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain" resulting from an accident or an incurable disease, and fully conscious when they make the demand to die.

Under terms of the law, expected to be enacted before summer, the demand to die must be made repeatedly by the patient and witnessed by a third party.

Doctors have a duty to inform the patient of their state of health and possible treatments that could prolong life. If the doctor arrives at the conclusion no other solution is possible and agrees the demand of the patient is voluntary, he must get the approval of a second doctor for the lethal injection to be applied.

In Denmark, minors will be allowed to kill themselves in extreme circumstances.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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After two years of heated debate and a marathon voting session lasting two days, the House of Representatives adopted the law Thursday by a vote of 86 to 56, with 10 deputies abstaining. The Senate approved the motion in October. The Netherlands was the first country to...
Belgium,Legalizes,'Mercy',Killings
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2002-00-17
Friday, 17 May 2002 12:00 AM
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