Belgium Lawmakers Want Teens, Mentally Disabled to Have Assisted Suicides

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Belgium Lawmakers Want Teens, Mentally Disabled to Have Assisted Suicides Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 26
, 2008

Brussels, Belgium ( — Lawmakers in Belgium are pushing the nation to open its assisted suicide law to teenagers and the mentally disabled. Members of the Belgium coalition government say parents should have the right to subject their terminally ill children to euthanasia and take their lives.

Belgium legalized assisted suicide in 2002 for patients with considerable mental or physical pain but pro-life advocates feared pressure would be put on others to consider it as well.

Bart Tommelein, leader of Belgium Liberals, plans to bring forward a proposal to extend assisted suicide to children and to older people with such sever dementia they can’t make their own medical decisions.

"We will seek, as Liberals, parliamentary majorities," Tommelein told the London Telegraph.

The idea has already drawn strong opposition from Cardinal Danneels, Belgium’s Catholic Cardinal who used his Easter sermon to condemn euthanasia.

"Avoiding suffering is no act of bravery," he said. "Our society seems unable to cope with death and suffering."

According to the newspaper, the Catholic leader blamed the Belgian media for "glorifying" assisted suicide.

Noted American bioethicist Wesley Smith also responded to the news.

"As I often say, euthanasia consciousness leads to the bottomless pit," he said. "In the words of the late Dutch euthanasia opponent, Dr. Karl Gunning, once killing is seen as the answer to one problem, it soon becomes the answer to 100."

There are thought to be about 39 assisted suicide cases monthly in Belgium but the numbers are likely higher. Euthanasia is permitted on infants who are declared unlikely to survive past 12 months and the Telegraph says parental consent isn’t considered in 16 percent of the cases.

"Even ‘choice’ eventually takes a back seat to death as the answer to human suffering," Smith said.