The Right-to-Die in Belgium. A History of Societal Attitudes, Conceptual Confusion and Advocacy Concerning Euthanasia between the 1880s and 1993.

Project Details


This doctoral project reconstructs the history of the emergence of and terminology used in
euthanasia debates in the Belgian context. Current insights on the history of this topical issue are
limited to anecdotal histories or the personal memories of those involved as end-of-life opinion
makers in the public sphere and proponents towards the political world since the 1980s. The unique
position that Belgium still occupies globally in this matter today deserves a better insight into the
presence of this problem in the public eye – as early at least as the 1930s – and the relationship of
proponents and arguments to foreign developments. The latter is certainly not without importance
from the 1980s onwards, most notably with both the active Dutch and American connections. The
current research project shows how the connotation and argumentation surrounding euthanasia
changed in Belgium in the last century, how criminal law related itself to the practice, what social
support could be found for end-of-life practices and how the political world, in the decade leading up
to the parliamentary work of the 1990s, dealt with the then relatively novel idea of a self-chosen end
of life. This contributes to contemporary debates within historical research on the secularisation of
dealing with death and dying, medical uncertainty, the evolution of bio- and medical ethics and the
relevance of lifestance and religion and the corresponding political clivages in research.

Funding Acknowledgement(s)

Special PhD Scholarship FWO
Effective start/end date1/11/2331/10/24


  • euthanasia
  • end of life
  • secularisation

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Political history
  • Cultural history
  • National history
  • Modern and contemporary history
  • History not elsewhere classified


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