Belgium to Vote Soon on Allowing Doctors to Euthanize Children

International   Steven Ertelt   Oct 21, 2013   |   11:57AM    Brussels, Belgium

Following several months of testimony from doctors and so-called experts in medical ethics, the Belgian parliament is preparing to vote on whether doctors should be able to euthanize children. The country already has some of the most relaxed laws on medically-assisted suicide in the world by the law currently applies only to those over the age of 18.

Under the bill being considered, this could be extended to those under 18 if they requested it, their parents gave their consent, and where an expert psychologist deemed the child to fully understand the implications of their decision. Under the proposals, medically-assisted euthanasia would also be offered as an option to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The proposal to change the law was introduced in Parliament last December. In the case of minors the argument was that younger patients were already being euthanized.

From a report on the upcoming vote:

The bill is widely supported and is expected to become law. Supporters of Belgium’s proposed euthanasia law say it is necessary and compassionate, but critics say it is only the next phase in what they call “a culture of death.”

Euthanasia is now considered medical therapy in Belgium.

Not only do two thirds of Belgians favor the new euthanasia bill, but in a controversial poll, three quarters said it would be okay for parents to euthanize their sick children without the child’s consent.

“The child does not have the maturity to get married or to buy alcohol or to buy cigarettes if he is 14. Now we are saying that because he is suffering, he might have the possibility to ask for euthanasia,” Carine Boucher, with the European Center for Bio-ethics in Brussels, said.

Michel De Keukelaere, a law student and the founder of the March for Life in Brussels said, “Children never choose to die. I don’t believe a child under 18 who is sick and who is ill wants to die.”

“Who will give the suggestion to the child that one of the solutions is euthanasia?” Boucher asked. “A child doesn’t know what euthanasia is. A child doesn’t know what death is.”

“The answer is caring. The answer is not killing,” Boucher said. She said what doctors should be doing is alleviating the suffering of the terminally ill with world-class palliative care.

Meanwhile, Brussels Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard is criticizing the legislation, which would extend the euthanasia law to include minors afflicted with incurable disease or suffering and judged capable of discernment.

Léonard, head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, said euthanasia undermined social solidarity and encouraged public opinion to think even questions of life and death were only personal decisions.

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“This argument is certainly in step with today’s culture,” he told the Italian Catholic news agency SIR, talking of a “hidden and insidious influence” that made old people feel they should choose death rather than bother others to care for them.

“Belgian law does not allow minors to sign business contracts, to marry or sign documents with binding requirements in the future, but with this law, if passed, they will be able to decide to die even without the consent of their parents,” he added.
Archbishop Léonard spoke as debate over euthanasia, which Belgium legalized in 2002, revived after a 44-year-old transsexual was helped to die because he suffered “unbearable psychological distress” over what he considered his failed sex-change operation.