Euthanasia, one’s final human right? : the case of euthanasia for children

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Heirwegh, Tess
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This thesis deals with the case of euthanasia for children. In the context of my research, euthanasia refers to the situation in which a physician ends the life (euthanasia in the strict sense) or helps ending the life without undertaking the lethal action (physician-assisted suicide) of a person who is suffering in an unbearable way, whether physically or mentally due to an accident or disease, without prospect of improvement, at the latter’s explicit request. First, this thesis uncovers possible signs indicating that the existence of a human right to euthanasia could be derived on the ground of other rights. Hereby, I focus on the human rights systems as established at the level of the United Nations and the Council of Europe. I argue that there are clear indications towards acceptance of a right to passive euthanasia. Also for active euthanasia, I detect some interesting grounds and developments. However, the latter still remains very controversial in the eyes of human rights courts and bodies. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that a human right to active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will be established soon. Answering whether a universal human right to euthanasia would be desirable, I argue that the worldwide insufficient access to health care is an important obstacle. Furthermore, this thesis deals with the question how a possible human right to euthanasia would apply to minors. I argue that totally excluding minors from the scope of this law is a violation of the principle of non-discrimination. Nevertheless, as children are a vulnerable group, they should be granted additional protection when exercising their right to euthanasia. In this context, it seems essential to find the balance between protection and participation. Last, I conduct a comparative law analysis on the implementation of children’s human rights regarding the legal systems on euthanasia for minors in the Netherlands and Belgium. Here, I argue that both countries have clearly positive and clearly negative points towards finding the balance between protection and participation on this issue.
Second semester University: Uppsala University
children, Convention on the Rights of the Child, euthanasia, Belgium, The Netherlands, human rights