The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday for the "first time" on legislation authorizing euthanasia.

The Court validated the Belgian procedure leading to the act of euthanasia, but condemning Brussels for “failures” in the control a posteriori.

In its Chamber judgment, the Court clarified that its decision "does not relate to the existence or not of a right to euthanasia" in general, but to "the compatibility" with the European Convention on Human Rights. of euthanasia performed on the mother of a Belgian applicant, who had been deeply depressed for forty years and who wanted to end it.

This is the “first time” that the ECHR “pronounces on legislation (…) which authorizes euthanasia”, commented on Twitter Nicolas Hervieu, jurist specializing in European law.

“While confirming the absence of a right to die, the Court judges that nothing prohibits euthanasia, (if it) is framed by legal guarantees”, he added.

A lack of independence

The applicant maintained that he had not been informed of his mother's euthanasia, which he had learned of the day after her death, in April 2012. that the euthanasia "had taken place according to Belgian legal prescriptions", recalls the Court.

Examining the provisions of the law on Belgian euthanasia, in force since 2002, the Court ruled that those governing "the acts and the procedure prior to euthanasia" constituted "in principle a legislative framework capable of ensuring the protection of the right patients' life as required by Article 2 of the Convention" (right to life).

It further considers "that it does not emerge from the information available to it that the act of euthanasia of the applicant's mother, carried out in accordance with the established (Belgian) legal framework,

On the other hand, the European judges pointed to "deficiencies" in the "a posteriori" examination of the euthanasia practiced, carried out by the Federal Commission for the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia: according to the ECHR, the legislation does not guarantee not give this body sufficient independence.

Indeed, Belgian law “does not prevent the doctor who performed euthanasia from sitting” within it “and from voting on the question of whether his own acts were compatible with the material and procedural requirements of the law”, notes the ECHR.

The latter ordered Brussels to pay 2,211.30 euros for costs and expenses to the applicant.

Citizens' convention on the end of life

The ECHR "validates the Belgian law for the decriminalization of euthanasia and considers it compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights", welcomed the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity (ADMD) in a press release. .

“The French legislator will have to take this decision into account (…) when, at the end of the Citizens' Convention on the end of life, a text will be submitted to Parliament”, estimates the French association.

📃CP - ⚖️ The European Court of Human Rights validates the Belgian law on the decriminalization of #euthanasia and judges it to be in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

cc @olivierveran @agnesfirmin #EndOfLife #Prochoix #Health

— Dying with Dignity (@ADMDFRANCE) October 4, 2022

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This Convention, which must guide the French government on a possible change in law, will begin its work on December 9, after drawing lots from the participants, and will finish it in mid-March.

Belgium and the Netherlands were the first two European countries twenty years ago to have authorized euthanasia, namely death caused by a caregiver at the request of a patient.


Euthanasia: No, the "Belgian model" wanted by Emmanuel Macron does not favor excesses


Death of Jean-Luc Godard: The director resorted to assisted suicide

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