BRUSSELS, October 26, 2001 ( – The Belgian Senate voted Thursday, 44-23, to legalize euthanasia. The law, which took two years to make its way through the Belgian parliament’s justice and social affairs committees, is expected to be approved by the lower chamber of parliament in 2002.

Passage will make Belgium the only country in Europe to follow the Netherlands in allowing euthanasia. The law allows doctors to kill patients without legal penalty if the doctor is satisfied that the patient is “of age and conscious,” and that the request to die was made of the patient’s own free will, properly thought through and consistent, and not the result of external pressure. The patient must also be “in a terminal medical situation” and enduring “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain” resulting from an accident or “incurable illness.”

In June the Belgian government also followed the Netherlands in proposing a cabinet bill to legalize homosexual marriage. The government followed Britain’s lead in allowing the abortifacient “morning-after” pill to be available to the public without a prescription.

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