Elections 2024: Who should I vote for if I want to see wider access to euthanasia?

In the run-up to the June elections, Belgian parties are staking out their positions on key ethical debates. Where do they stand on extending euthanasia to people suffering from advanced dementia?

Belgium's euthanasia law is one of the most liberal in the world, but it does not allow euthanasia for people with advanced dementia. In the later stages of dementia, patients are no longer considered mentally competent to choose euthanasia.

Anyone requesting euthanasia in Belgium must be mentally competent and conscious when they do so. An advance directive can also be drawn up, but such a directive can only be carried out if the patient is no longer conscious.

Mental competence

People with dementia, therefore, face the choice of opting for euthanasia in the early stages of the disease when they are still judged to be mentally competent or forgoing the option altogether. 

This means that people with dementia sometimes choose to die by euthanasia at a time when they may still have several healthy years ahead of them. The issue has sparked a debate about whether Belgium's euthanasia law should be adapted.

Euthanasia for advanced dementia has been virtually off the agenda in Belgium in recent years, largely due to the reluctance of the Flemish Christian democratic party CD&V. 

But in early March, the party appeared to make a U-turn. CD&V leader Sammy Mahdi said his party did not want to leave the discussion "to parties that have little or very broad moral boundaries", effectively signalling its willingness to engage in the debate.

From examining conditions to extending legislation

In its election manifesto, CD&V writes that "the conditions under which euthanasia is possible in cases of advanced dementia should be examined". 

The Flemish liberal party Open VLD is more direct in its support for extending the law, saying that it should be possible to draw up an advance directive for any form of irreversible incapacity, including dementia.

The Flemish parties Groen and Vooruit also want to extend the law to allow euthanasia for people with advanced dementia. The N-VA and Vlaams Belang do not address the issue in their election manifestos.

French-speaking parties

In the French-speaking part of the country, the socialist PS party is also in favour of allowing people suffering from dementia to choose euthanasia through an advance directive. 

Parties such as Ecolo do not address the issue directly, but say that seniors "must be able to choose where, when and how they want to die", adding that they want to "simplify the provisions on euthanasia".

The centrist French-speaking Les Engagés party does not mention euthanasia in its manifesto, but says it wants to promote "a culture of palliative care and anticipatory advance care planning adapted to the specific needs of people with dementia".



In the run-up to the elections for the federal, regional and European parliaments on 9 June, Belga English explains how the parties in Belgium want to address today’s challenges. Each day we put the spotlight on one issue.

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