Belgian teenager first minor to be euthanized

Euthanasia Drugs (file)
Euthanasia Drugs (file)

A terminally-ill teenager has become the first minor to be euthanized in Belgium after their laws were relaxed two years ago which made Belgium the only country in the world to allow minors to choose an assisted death.

A 17-year-old was helped to die, with doctors bringing the minor into an induced coma using "palliative sedation", the BBC reports.

 Wim Distelmans, head of the Euthanasia Commission, said the teen was "nearly 18" and argued in defence of the controversial procedure.

"Fortunately there are very few children who are considered [for euthanasia] but that does not mean we should refuse them the right to a dignified death," he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.

As the minor was "suffering unbearable physical pain" they were permitted to choose euthanasia, following a referral by their local doctor to the Euthanasia Commission.

While Belgium is the first to allow individuals of any age to receive an assisted death, other countries are also relaxing their stance.

The Netherlands allows euthanasia for those over 12, and other countries such as Luxembourg and Switzerland permit it for adults in particular circumstances.

The issue is becoming more widely discussed in New Zealand, with a Reid Research poll conducted by Newshub in 2015 showing 71% want euthanasia laws changed.