Liberals push to legalise euthanasia for people with dementia

The Open VLD party is demanding that the Belgian Chamber of Representatives prioritise a bill to expand the country's euthanasia law. The Flemish liberals want to legalise euthanasia for people with dementia before the upcoming elections in June.

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

People with dementia are therefore faced with 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 opt for euthanasia at a time when they could still have several good years ahead of them.


In the last two years, 49 people with dementia have chosen euthanasia in Belgium, all in the early stages of the disease, said Open VLD MP Robby De Caluwé. "Inhumane," said De Caluwé. "And simply because the law left them no choice."

One of these people was Jan Ceuleers, the former head of the Flemish public broadcaster VRT, who passed away in late 2020. His daughter Barbara recounts his death in a recent book in which she argues for a change in Belgium's euthanasia law.

No consensus

De Caluwé is now pushing for a reconsideration of his bill, originally proposed in 2019, in response to the book. The MP's bill was shelved in 2019 when the current federal government agreed that the majority would first seek consensus on ethical issues before parties introduced bills in parliament.

Although there is no consensus on whether the euthanasia law should be expanded, the Flemish liberals are now demanding that the bill be given priority in the Chamber's public health committee. It is highly doubtful that the proposal will be put to a vote before the Chamber is dissolved ahead of the elections in June.


#FlandersNewsService | Open vld MP Robby De Caluwé © BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS

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