Belgium Lawmakers: Expand Euthanasia Law to Include Children

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Belgium Lawmakers: Expand Euthanasia Law to Include Children Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 8, 2004

Brussels, Belgium ( — Following a proposal in neighboring Netherlands, Belgian lawmakers are putting forward a measure that would expand the country’s legal euthanasia law to allow doctors to end the lives of children without parental permission.

According to a Reuters report, members of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s ruling Flemish Liberal political party are putting forward the proposal.

Senators Jeannine Leduc and Paul Wille claim Belgian children with supposedly incurable diseases have as much right to end their lives as adults, Reuters reported.

"Their suffering is as great (and) the situation they face is as intolerable and inhumane," their legislation reads.

The lawmakers also want to legaliz the practice of assisted suicide so patients can kill themselves.

Last week, a leading Catholic official is blasted a proposal in the Netherlands that would allow children under the age of 12 to request assisted suicide.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, condemned the idea saying "the final boundary will have been crossed" in disrespect for the sanctity of human life.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in September 2002.

In all, 400 cases of euthanasia have been documented in Belgium since the practice was legalized and many more may not have been reported to governmental authorities.

Brian Johnston, the author of "Death as a Salesman: What’s Wrong With Assisted Suicide" told that the figure leads him to believe that "euthanasia is not being employed for medically indicated reasons but instead for culturally indicated reasons."

Under Belgium’s "mercy killing" regulations, a doctor can only assist in a patient’s death if the individual has asked "voluntarily and repeatedly" and has "thought deeply" about what he or she is asking.

The patient must also be deemed in full control of his or her mental faculties. Belgian authorities have interpreted that to mean that the patient is fully aware of what he or she is asking and is not being pressured by anyone.

However, a number of ethicists point out that the "right to die" often leads to the "duty to die," with people who are seriously ill believing that they must end their lives in order to avoid being a burden to others.

For instance, published reports indicate that euthanasia practitioners routinely engage in illegal practices that are abusive to patients.

In June, reports surfaced that three people with Huntington’s disease and a person with Alzheimer’s had died in the Netherlands as a result of euthanasia — even though Dutch law prohibits mercy killing in such cases.

Related web sites:
Continent Death: Euthanasia in Europe –