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 In palliative sedation, patients are sedated and life-sustaining support is withdrawn so they starve to death; the process can take days.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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