The Catholic Church is condemning a measure pending in the Belgian Parliament that would extend euthanasia to children with disabilities, in a move pro-life advocates worldwide had been fearing would come and expand an already much-abused euthanasia law even further.
The Belgian Senate voted earlier this month 50-17 for the bill, which now goes to the lower House, called the Chamber of Representatives, . Of the 17 who voted against the bill, the majority were from the Christian Democrats, a traditionally Catholic political party.
Before the vote in the lower House, expected before the next elections in May, the Catholic Church is lobbying against it. Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, talked with the National Catholic Register about the measure.
At the Academy for Life, we’re very sad and disappointed about this legislative proposal. The possibility of euthanasia for children hasn’t yet passed the final step of the legislative process in Belgium, so we hope the process will be stopped; because we would like to see the possibility of more public discussion.
People need to try to understand this process and the very dangerous consequences of applying euthanasia to minors, when children are very strongly influenced by the psychological and physical effects of a disease and illness. We ask: Why is it not possible to provide very good palliative care instead?
A child is a child and so is not at full maturity and with the capacity to understand and handle such a crucial decision. Otherwise, there’s no separation between a minor and an adult. There is a general universal acknowledgement that children are more vulnerable and fragile and need a supplement of support, help and care. So we don’t understand why there is this willingness to manage a person’s capacity and liberty by losing this idea of the protection, defense, respect and intrinsic value of life, particularly of children.
Is it a misconception, a perversion, of mercy and compassion?
It is; it is a misunderstanding, confusion and perversion of the idea of mercy. Mercy is offered through very good palliative care, to control pain, to control suffering. It is necessary to offer very good support to the child, but also a high level of support to the parents — to give them psychological, spiritual support, to help them stay together in this process.
It is strange and difficult to understand why, when parents are suffering because their child is dying, then [they decide] to give added consent to anticipate his death and to kill him.
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Generally, parents are fighting too much to preserve a child’s life, and it’s a difficult process to accept. But to … give consent to be killed is very difficult to understand.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 but has, since its enactment, been prohibited for patients under 18. While euthanasia is legal in a handful of countries in Europe, Belgium is the first country in the world to lift all age restrictions on the practice. In 2012, Belgium recorded 1,432 cases of euthanasia – a 25% increase from 2011.
“Currently the Belgian euthanasia law limits euthanasia to people who are at least 18 years old. This unprecedented bill would extend euthanasia to children with disabilities,” says Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “The Belgian Socialist government is adamant that the euthanasia law needs to extend to minors and people with dementia even though there is significant examples of how the current law is being abused and the bracket creep of acceptable reasons for euthanasia continues to grow. The current practice of euthanasia in Belgium appears to have become an easy way to cover-up medical errors.”“Regardless of disability, life should be valued. To pass legislation that allows termination of life for people with disabilities who are minors is unacceptable,” he added. “Instead we must make every effort to use the research provided to us to provide attentive care to relieve their physical suffering in a moral way.”