Children, dementia patients in Belgium’s euthanasia sights

belgium (1)

Belgium continues its lonely international road in considering an “unprecedented law” to grant euthanasia for children and dementia patients:

In Belgium, the ruling Socialist party has proposed the bill expanding the right of euthanasia. The Christian Democratic Flemish party vowed to oppose the legislation and to challenge it in the European Court of Human Rights, if it passes. A final decision must be approved by Parliament and could take months. …

Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatric oncologist at the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussels hospital, says the changes would legalize what is already happening informally. He said cases of euthanasia in children are rare and estimates about 10 to 100 cases in Belgium every year might qualify.

“Children have different ways of asking for things, but they face the same questions as adults when they’re terminally sick,” van Berlaer said. “Sometimes it’s a sister who tells us her brother doesn’t want to go back to the hospital and is asking for a solution,” he said. “Today if these families find themselves (in that situation), we’re not able to help them, except in dark and questionable ways.”

Oddly, the Catholic Church is arguing that doctors can already starve someone to death and that’s considered more humane:

“It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might (be able) to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard testified.

Leonard said alternatives like palliative sedation make euthanasia unnecessary — and relieves doctors of the burden of having to kill patients. In palliative sedation, patients are sedated and life-sustaining support is withdrawn so they starve to death; the process can take days.

Some experts prefer what might be termed the “It gets better” approach:

Charles Fostr, who teaches medical law and ethics at Oxford University, believes children couldn’t possibly have the capacity to make an informed decision about euthanasia since even adults struggle with the concept.

“It often happens that when people get into the circumstances they had so feared earlier, they manage to cling on all the more,” he said. “Children, like everyone else, may not be able to anticipate how much they will value their lives if they were not killed.” …

Dr. Patrick Cras, a neurologist at the University of Antwerp, said people with dementia often change their minds about wanting to die.

“They may turn into different people and may not have the same feelings about wanting to die as when they were fully competent,” he said. “I don’t see myself killing another person if he or she isn’t really aware of exactly what’s happening simply on the basis of a previous written request (to have euthanasia). I haven’t fully made up my mind but I think this is going too far.”

What most surprises me in these discussions is how little movement there’s been, both stateside and abroad, in furthering the cause of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the past two decades.

My home state of Oregon was considered at the forefront of a trend – but it seemed to have been stopped in its tracks when disability-rights groups joined the Catholic Church in blasting these proposals as undermining their own dignity and right to life, even if those lives weren’t judged high quality by the rest of society.

That can always change, though. You don’t have to like serial plagiarist Rand Paul to similarly worry that the “United States was veering dangerously close to eliminating people whom society considered to be undesirable.”

Author: GREG PIPER

I'm a tech journalist who's making a TV show about a college newspaper.

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8 Comments

  1. Under certain circumstances, I would have no problem with either, but dementia is not Alzheimers so I am hoping that is what they mean. Alzheimer patients will eventually die..and it is a slow and painful death as any could possible be for loved ones as well as for them. Dementia is simply losing mental faculties. I would be in favor of one, but nor the other, sorry.
    As for children. if they are suffering and must be on pain meds and there is no hope of survival, than yes…”but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God..who is our home” Wordsworth.
    I could not even imagine approving a dementia patients’ death. They may not be
    “with us” necessarily, but maybe they like where they are. They know love and they know touch.

  2. You bring up a good point on dementia vs. Alzheimer’s disease, Sheknows.

    The original article does mention Alzheimer’s but also dementia patients “experiencing ‘unbearable suffering’”

    I don’t have enough medical knowledge to differentiate the two when it comes to mental competence, (mental and physical) suffering, etc. between the two.

  3. Having worked in a hospital of what some back then called ‘hopeless case’ children –who back then were imo not hopeless but were not ‘the perfect born child’ to the parents who brought the children to life. I have to say, no, for God’s sake, no euthanasia of children… but Sheknows consideration is a real one if the child is in terrible unmediatable pain. I am still haunted by the sweet little souls abandoned by their parents to the incredibly uneven care of institutions run by cold ‘religious.’

  4. Thank you Dr. E.!!!! I understand the suffering that children can go through–truly I do! I have had migraine headaches since I can remember. It took me fifteen years to realize that my headaches were not the same as everyone else’s. I understand that children may be in pain. If they are, relieve the pain–don’t kill the patient!

    In “I Claudius” Caligula cures the coughing of one of his relatives (a boy) by having his head cut off! That is how I see it. Sorry for those who disagree, but human life is not non-self-aware animal life. Already China is facing a serious gender demographics problem (way too many men for the quantity of women available, since a boy is considered preferable to a girl and they are allowed only one child).

    We tried and convicted Nazi politicians for doing what is being proposed here!

  5. I do not know the extent of their criteria over there and of course that makes all the difference, at least to me. I do not see it as a “Caligula” solution.
    A migraine headache doesn’t carry with it a death sentence. An excruciating bone cancer does. I suppose one may prefer to keep the child on so much pain medication that eventually it just succumbs to the cancer or an overdose. After awhile, many pain meds are no longer effective and they induce coma. Anyway, without getting too graphic, I do know, or I believe at this moment if it were my child suffering, whom I love more than any human could experience, I would not want that to continue. Then again….thank God I am not in that position.

  6. The finality of death instructs us to err in favor of life.

  7. That is a great comment Elijah.
    I suppose that is why religion was invented…..

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