"Foreigners won't come to Belgium for euthanasia"

As a member of the Belgian euthanasia commission, Luc Proot has reacted after the publication of a report in The Washington Post. "We had expected international media attention". 

The Washington Post released an opinion article on euthanasia on children in Belgium , in which author Charles Lane slams the liberal Belgian regulations allowing euthanasia on children, under very strict conditions. In an official July report about euthanasia cases in Belgium in 2016 and 2017, the commission mentioned the cases of three terminally ill children, of 9, 11 and 17 years respectively.

In Belgium, euthanasia on children is only possible if the children are terminally ill and suffering a lot, if they make the request and if the parents agree. The doctors in questions must also approve the request. Child psychiatrists are called in for help, but some claim that a child is simply not ready to make such a heavy decision.

Belgium is more liberal than the Netherlands. The Washington Post article soon found its way in the Anglosaxon press, as the Belgian situation traditionally sparks surprise abroad. 

Experts underline the strict conditions and specific context

Luc Proot was speaking in the VRT's news programme "De Wereld Vandaag" to respond to the article. He underlined that, though we are talking of three cases, this remains a big exception, and that conditions are very strict. "There will of course be new cases, but not in big numbers", he said. "We are talking about children who are being treated in university units where experts have fought for their lives a long time." 

He understands critics who claim a minor cannot make a big decision like that, but underlines that psychologists are cooperating, and says that patient are suffering hard. "It's only when they have a somatic disease that their case can be considered, not when we are talking about psychological suffering." 

You need a solid doctor-patient relation

"A foreign patient can't just come here to be treated"

Proot says he expected the media attention, though he is surprised it comes some time after the report.  Proot also denies suggestions that these cases are a major precedent and that foreigners may come to Belgium now, given the liberal regulations here.

"You need a solid patient-doctor relation before you can even start the procedure. A foreign patient can't just come here to start one. The fear that some are having, that foreigners may flock to Belgium, is completely false."