Belgium is expected to approve legislation legalising euthanasia on ThursdayNHS

Belgium, one of several countries where euthanasia is legal, is expected to quash age restrictions on who can end their life.

Although the majority of the public appear to support the move, protestors have turned out ahead of Thursday's parliamentary vote to abolish age constraints, which will extend the right to children.

According to paediatricians and experts, the new law will be specific enough to apply only to a few teenagers who are in advanced stages of terminal illness, and experiencing unbearable pain. However, critics have argued that vulnerable children may be coerced into opting for euthanasia.

Currently, ill children must wait until they reach 18 before they can request euthanasia, or they must wait to die naturally. Ahead of the decision, IBTimes examines other countries in which euthanasia is legal:

The Netherlands

The country passed a law legalising euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in 2002. Under that legislation, the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports said the practice "allows a person to end their life in dignity after having received every available type of palliative care".

The Netherlands legalised euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in 2002

The Groningen Protocol, introduced in 2004, sets out criteria for euthanising children. Currently, for a Dutch public prosecutor, the termination of a child's life under the age of 12 is acceptable in the presence of "hopeless and unbearable suffering" or "the consent of the parents to terminate life". Furthermore, euthanasia for children can be carried out if a medical consultation has taken place and the procedure is carefully executed.


The country's parliament passed a bill which legalised euthanasia in February 2008, with 30 out of 59 votes in favour in the first reading. In March 2009, the second reading was approved, making Luxembourg the third country to decriminalise euthanasia. Under the law, terminally ill patients will be able to have their lives ended after receiving the approval of two doctors and a panel of experts.


Legislation on euthanasia in Switzerland only permits assisted suicide. This means lethal drugs may be prescribed as long as the recipient takes an active role in the drug administration. Active euthanasia - which includes administering a lethal injection - is illegal.

Swiss Government
Switzerland only considers assisted suicide to be legal, in which the recipient actively takes lethal drugs provided by a physicianWikimedia Commons

Assisted suicide does not require the recipient to be Swiss, nor is a physician required to be involved in the process. These legal guidelines are unique in the world.


Euthanasia is illegal throughout the US, but assisted suicide is legal in the states of Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon Death with Dignity Act requires a physician to prescribe medication which must be self-administered. The prognosis of the patient must be a life span of six months or less and the person must be a resident of Oregon. Legally, a doctor must inform the patient of all other alternatives, including hospice and palliative care.

In the Washington Death with Dignity Act, the regulations are largely the same. However, the patient has to meet two doctors licensed in their state of residence. Both doctors must come to the same prognosis. Vermont legalised assisted suicide in May 2013, under the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act. Under the law, patients must be 18 years of age or over, a resident of the state and have less than 6 months to live. Two physicians must determine whether the patient is suitable for the process.

New Mexico may become the next state to legalise assisted suicide. In January 2014, Judge Nan G. Nash said: "This court [Second District Court in Albuquerque] cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the libarty, safety and happiness of a New Mexican than the right of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying."