When Belgium extended euthanasia to children in February 2014, by eliminating the age limit for lethal injection, we had hoped that no child would die in this manner. The first official child euthanasia in Belgium was reported in September 2016.
The 2017 Belgian euthanasia data showed that the number of euthanasia deaths continues to increase, euthanasia deaths for conditions related to aging have skyrocketed and three children died by euthanasia.
A recent news report has provided more information about the child euthanasia deaths in Belgium. Charles Lane reported in the Washington Post that the 17 year-old was living with muscular dystrophy, the nine year old had a brain tumour and the 11 year-old had cystic fibrosis. Lane reported:
We do know the 11-year-old euthanized last year had cystic fibrosis. This congenital respiratory disease is incurable and fatal, but modern treatments enable many patients to enjoy high quality of life well into their 30s or even beyond. Median life expectancy for new CF cases in the United States is now 43 years, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Proot assured me that everything was in order, not only with the 11-year-old’s case but also with the other two: a 17-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a 9-year-old with a brain tumor. “I saw mental and physical suffering so overwhelming that I thought we did a good thing,” he told me.
Proot was, of course, relying on reports by the anonymous physicians who participated in the euthanasias, and we, in turn, must take Proot at his word: Journalists and other members of the public are not permitted to review the case files independently, even in redacted form.
Lane then questions the application of the Belgian euthanasia law:
Such questions seem especially pertinent for Belgium, given the problems it has experienced since legislators allowed euthanasia for patients with cognitive and psychiatric illnesses, such as dementia, depression or schizophrenia, even if they have no terminal physical ailment.
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Last year, a member of the euthanasia commission resigned in protest because it refused to recommend prosecution when a woman with dementia who had not requested euthanasia was nevertheless put to death at her family’s request.
Since then, 360 Belgian doctors, academics and others have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on euthanasia for psychiatric patients.
Recently Fatal Flaws was screened in Guernsey (UK) while their legislature was debating assisted suicide. One of the sponsors of the assisted suicide bill watched Fatal Flaws. The next day he stood up in the legislature and said that he changed his mind after watching Fatal Flaws. Guernsey then defeated the assisted suicide bill by 24 to 14.
Sadly, under-reporting of euthanasia and euthanasia without request is common in Belgium. Lethally injecting people without request are considered criminal acts in every jurisdiction in the world, but under the banner of assisted death these acts becomes a difficult but necessary part of protecting the “human right” to kill in a post-post-modern society.