This conference took place 15–17 November 2017 in collaboration with Prof. Jan De Lepeleire (KU Leuven) and Prof. Willem Lemmens, who gave a public lecture on 15 November.
Belgium is one of the few countries in the world where, since the 2002 euthanasia
law, a physician can under strict conditions actively terminate the life of a patient
upon his repeated request. Media and the general public in Belgium seem to
this legislation and practice. The number of registered cases of euthanasia
is growing rapidly: in 2015, 2022 cases were registered, equaling 1.8% of the overall
number of deaths.
A number of researchers from home and abroad state that it is difficult to critically
evaluate the application of the legislation, partly due to a lack of transparency in the
monitoring and evaluation committee that supervises it. It is difficult to form an
objective picture of the number of cases in which euthanasia may have been applied
in violation of the legal conditions. Was there ‘unbearable physical or psychological
suffering’ as a result of an ‘incurable disorder’ with a ‘medically hopeless condition
that cannot be tolerated’? Were procedural rules such as notification, consultation
or waiting time correctly applied? These concerns exist primarily for euthanasia in
psychiatric patients and elderly people who are ill at times but not terminally ill.
Some researchers report a new medical paternalism with which euthanasia is
The international scientific conference offered an opportunity for national and
international experts – lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers and
ethicists – to exchange ideas with each other and with interested professionals
coming from different perspectives and national contexts. They also considered
the distinction between euthanasia and medically assisted suicide and examined
the interaction with palliative care. The Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Journal of
Medicine) will publish a more detailed report.