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Interdisciplinary Reflections for the Support of Euthanasia Requests of Minors in Belgium

Franck Devaux, Claire Van Pevenage, Christine Fonteyne

Research framework: In Belgium, euthanasia was made available to minors in February 2014. The request to die must be expressed by the minor and receive parental consent. It is regulated by an interdisciplinary process and support for situations of constant, unbearable and unappeasable physical suffering presenting no other reasonable solution in the context of an incurable condition.

Objectives: Share reflections and recommendations on support for children, their families and teams in the context of euthanasia requests. They aim to point out the elements that this support has in common with any care process, but also those that characterize it specifically.

Methodology: Since 2014, the pediatric palliative care mobile team of the Queen Fabiola University Children’s Hospital (HUDERF) of the Brussels University Hospital (HUB) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has met regularly on an interdisciplinary basis to examine and discuss the various aspects of the law.

Results: The outcome of this dialogue opens up a field of reflection and guidelines for ensuring appropriate, regulated care. Its aim is to support all those involved in the emergence of a request for euthanasia. The aim is not to define a strict framework, but to propose generalizable benchmarks capable of ensuring dynamic, non-linear, collaborative and comprehensive care.

Conclusions: Euthanasia is a process of care and accompaniment that follows the multiple rhythms of the people for whom it is responsible. A human and interdisciplinary constellation is needed to guide this process.

Contribution: Euthanasia of minors in Belgium is a rare practice, little studied but never trivial. This article examines the exceptional singularity of this care process and the interdisciplinary resources needed to support it.