Speed Reads

medical ethics

First child euthanized in Belgium

A terminally ill 17-year-old in Belgium became the first minor euthanized after the country lifted age restrictions for voluntary euthanasia in 2014. The identity of the teenager and date of his or her death have not been released, though a Belgian official confirmed the euthanasia happened within the last week.

"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," said Wim Distelmans, head of Belgium's state euthanasia commission. Belgian law requires terminally ill children of any age to be conscious and possessed of "capacity of discernment" to request their own deaths, as well as permission from the minors' parent or guardian.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal under certain circumstances in five American states — California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington — and promises to be a significant culture-war battle for years to come.