Author: Yanna Van Wesemael
In this dissertation we will describe the process and outcomes of euthanasia requests and evaluate the particular practice of consultation between physicians, within the context of the Belgian euthanasia law.
At the end of life, euthanasia is only one of the decisions that can be made and it is a practice that occurs rarely in Belgium. In 2007, only 1.9% of deaths in Flanders were the result of euthanasia, i.e. life-ending at the patient's explicit request, which has to be performed by a physician. This definition corresponds to the legal Belgian definition and finds its origin in the Netherlands, where a specialist in health law formulated it first in 1977. Distinctions have been made - and are still being made in some countries - between active and passive, voluntary and involuntary euthanasia by many authors but the above-mentioned definition is the one used for research in Belgium and hence also for this dissertation. Official organizations like the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) have also advocated to use this definition.
Before going into detail in the research questions of this dissertation, we will sketch a general historical background of the meaning of euthanasia, the background of the Belgian euthanasia law and an overview of euthanasia laws in other countries. We will also give an overview of the past research regarding this subject in Belgium and shortly describe the Life End Information
Forum (LEIF), a Flemish organization providing in trained consultants in euthanasia requests.