Euthanasia: Possible alternatives

  • Senators are considering reviewing the euthanasia law in view of extending it to minors.
  • CDH and CD&V are against this extension.
  •  A substitute majority could form around a common text.
  • Unless the family of Christian parties changes this case into a Di Rupo government issue.

Will the N-VA run to the rescue of the federal majority? As surprising as it seems, the hypothesis is not so far-fetched. Monday’s edition of De Morgen brings this up regarding the topic of the bill extending euthanasia rights to minors. The Senate’s Justice and Home Affairs Council will meet Wednesday morning. Its agenda includes planning the work on this delicate topic that is dividing the federal majority.

Presently, almost fifteen different proposals from all different parties, except for Ecolo and CD&V (Christian Democratic and Flemish), are piling up. They all address different goals. The most controversial is the extension of euthanasia to minors. This issue is pitting the majority ranks against each other. Liberal and socialist families are in favor even though, as Daniel Bacquelaine (MR deputy) reminds us, “everyone here votes according to the dictates of conscience,” The Christians social democrats (Humanist Democratic Centre and CD&V) are opposed.

On the other side, the Ecolo, Green and N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) parties are also in favor of it, under certain conditions: “We agree to advance a bill that would allow euthanasia for minors along with powers of discretion. Parents would be included in the decision-making process without, however, any veto power. The physician involved would also be able use his right of consciousness to refer the patient to a colleague,” states Cécile Thibaut, the Eco senator.

Not part of the government declaration

We are, however, miles away from all this. The different proposals take off in every direction. Should an alternative majority be contemplated? Senator Jacques Brotchi (MR), author of one of the texts on the table, issues a disclaimer: “There has been no contact on this with the N-VA. We are trying to find a consensus within the majority. It will not be easy.” He then adds “but it’s not out of the question that the N-VA would join us.” In the Socialist ranks, Philippe Mahoux, whose bill insists on the power of discretion in an end of life situation, also denies possible negotiations with the Flemish nationalists. He stated: “It’s true that the N-VA submitted texts on that subject, but they did not address issues related to euthanasia of minors.”

This Wednesday the senators will set the agenda, the schedule, and the pace of the work at hand. Is a council vote possible before parliamentary recess? Several senators think so, as long as a consensus on a common text is quickly reached, unless the CDH and the CD&V turn this case into a government issue, thus threatening the stability of the Di Rupo’s regime. In fact, the extension of euthanasia to minors does not appear in the government agreement that allies it to the four other majority parties.

The Humanists and Christian Democrats could then block the legislation until June 2014. “If that’s the case, we’ll have to schedule work for the beginning of the next legislative session”, confides a senate member of the Social Affairs committee.


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