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Document Details :
Title: Law-Making, Ethics and Hastiness
Subtitle: The Debate on Euthanasia in Belgium
Author(s): MEULENBERGS, Tom , SCHOTSMANS, Paul
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 9 Issue: 2-3 Date: 2002
Belgium is the second country in the world that decriminalized euthanasia. On May 28, 2002 the Belgian Parliament approved the bill on euthanasia. With this approval, the political majority in the Belgian Parliament took a momentous decision concerning how we as a society deal with life and death.
For many, euthanasia holds a promise. They take euthanasia literally as the ‘good death’. Others identify the recourse to euthanasia as a symptom of a ‘culture of death’. Given the importance of legislation on euthanasia, an ethical reflection on the rationale and course of the Belgian debate on euthanasia urges itself.
It is the aim of this contribution to shed light on the Belgian debate on euthanasia from an ethical perspective. The focus is thus rather on the arguments underlying the debate and their ethical assessment which implies the clarification of the values involved and the options made in the eventual legislation.
To understand how and why the Belgian debate evolved as it did resulting in the final vote on the law on euthanasia, two reports of the Belgian Federal Advisory Committee on Bioethics are cardinal: the Advice n° 1 concerning the Desirability of Legislation on Euthanasia (1997) and the Advice n° 9 concerning the Termination of Life of Incompetent Patients (1999).
These two reports expressed the opinions and moral viewpoints present in Belgian society. After the presentation of the two reports and their underlying axiology we will examine what their relationship is with the eventual law on euthanasia which was the tailpiece of five years of public and political debate.
In this examination, the pivotal question will be whether the legislature has succeeded in doing justice to the different moral viewpoints and the tendencies to a moral consensus that were formulated in the two reports.