The January 10, 2018 edition of the journal Pediatrics features an “Ethics Round” article titled: Should Pediatric Euthanasia be Legalized?
The Pediatrics article features comments by proponents and opponents of child euthanasia—“philosophers from the United States and the Netherlands, and a Dutch pediatrician.” The article clarifies that, in the Netherlands, euthanasia is a legal option for children (ages 12 – 18) with parental permission and to newborns, who are younger than one, based on the “Groningen Protocol.” The authors argue that these deaths are rare.
It is particularly concerning that the Netherlands “experts,” Marije Brouwer, MA, Els Maeckelberghe, Ph.D., and Eduard Verhagen, M.D., JD, Ph.D., stated:
We would advise the Minister of Health to consider removing age restrictions from both the Euthanasia Regulation and the Groningen Protocol. This would make euthanasia accessible for competent and incompetent children who suffer unbearably when there is no other way to relieve their suffering. It would show trust in mature minors, parents, and doctors to make the right decisions.
Our advice to remove age restrictions is in line with important Dutch values. We believe in self-determination, as manifested by the voluntary request that initiates the procedure, and in the beneficence of physicians to end unbearable suffering when there are no other options.
We would cautiously remind the Minister that the group of incompetent patients who also might suffer unbearably is not limited to the age of 12 but encompasses patients of all ages.
Brouwer, Maeckelberghe, and Verhagen state that euthanasia should be permitted when a person is incompetent to request death by lethal injection and that the decision should be left to the “beneficence” of physicians. Choice and autonomy were never centrally important, since the law always gave physicians the power to decide. People with disabilities should be concerned when lethal injection can be done based on the beneficence of a physician.
Euthanasia of incompetent people is not new in the Netherlands or Belgium. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) (August 3, 2017) found 431 terminations of life without request in the Netherlands in 2015. Similar studies indicate that euthanasia without consent is even more common in Belgium.
Professor of Philosophy Christopher Kaczor disagreed with Brouwer, Maeckelberghe, and Verhagen. Kaczor states
Defenders of the Dutch law permitting intentional killing of infants as well as adults and children 12 years of age and older presuppose an empirical claim: killing a person is “the only escape from the situation” of unbearable suffering. This claim is false.
Current Dutch law does allow for non voluntary euthanasia of infants, an allowance incompatible with the principles of justice because such infants do not consent to have their lives ended. If all persons are to have equal rights and deserve equal protection of the law, then disabled persons (whether they are infants, children, or adults) deserve the same basic protections from intentional homicide.
The Pediatrics article also features comments from long-time euthanasia promoter, Margaret Battin and opposition by John D. Lantos.
Dutch journalist, Gerbert van Loenen, in his book – Do You Call This A Life? –explains that euthanasia without consent based on beneficence, was part of the euthanasia practice, in the Netherlands, from the beginning.
In his book, van Loenen examines the stories and cultural change that led to the legalization and then acceptance of euthanasia in the Netherlands.