Although the law may seem permissive, Belgian law specifies three conditions for euthanasia: the request must be voluntary, thoughtful and repeated; the patient must be experiencing unbearable suffering (psychological or physical); consequence of an incurable and serious illness.
The Belgium’s euthanasia law allows foreign residents to apply to this treatment to “die with dignity”, as expressed by the patients who have requested it.
Access for foreign residents is a unique feature that attracts patients from neighboring countries, including many Frenchs.
In 2022, more than 70 of them had already crossed the border to die in Belgium, but it is not a simple procedure, there are serious conditions to obtain it.
Sabina’s last days: “I prefer to leave with dignity, in peace”
Sabine He has had chronic arthritis since he was five years old.. After two heart attacks, breathing problems, severe continuous pain and doses of morphine who accompany them, decided to die at the age of 56.
Living on the outskirts of Lille, he was able to take a few steps in Belgium thanks to the help of a group of retired doctors.
In the next weeks, Sabine will die in Belgium on the date she herself has chosen: “I have regained control of my life. I have chosen how it would end. I prefer to leave with dignity, in peace and tranquility, surrounded by my family and friends, and not in the hospital with my body everywhere.” Like her, 71 French people have already arrived in Belgium to die in 2023.
Foreign patients remain a minority and do not overload competent services. Instead, requests are increasing. And some of them are irrelevant; which forces doctors and hospitals to filter them.
“France caricatures this practice as if it were very permissive”
Jacqueline Herremans, president of the Association pour le Droit de Mourir dans la Dignité (Association for the Right to Die with Dignity), points out that an image that is too permissive is spread abroad.
“Due to the caricature that is made of her in France, Some French people think that it is enough to come to Belgium, ask for euthanasia and obtain itwhile, although our law is flexible, we must remember that there are conditions,” says Jacqueline.
What are the criteria for receiving euthanasia?
Two different doctors must verify that these criteria are met. Marc Decroly, a general practitioner in Brussels, points out that euthanasia is “a possibility for the patient, not a right. It is a possibility for the doctor, not a duty“.
Remember that doctors do not propose euthanasia, under any circumstances. “If patients don’t talk to us about it, we don’t talk about it,” he explains.
According to Decroly, Belgian law specifies three important conditions for euthanasia: the request must be voluntary, thoughtful and repeated, without external pressure; the patient must be experiencing unbearable suffering (whether psychological or physical); and the suffering must be the consequence of an incurable and serious illness.
In the European Union, Belgium and the Netherlands were the first countries to authorize euthanasia (2002). Now they have been joined by Luxembourg (2009), Spain (2021) and Portugal (2023). In France, consideration of the end-of-life bill has been postponed until 2024.
Additional sources • Angélica Parra Hernández (Translation, subtitles and text in Spanish)