(Updated) Euthanasia of Young Children?
As expected, the Belgian Parliament on Thursday amended the country’s 2002 euthanasia law to permit children of any age to “die with dignity” through euthanasia.
TIME reports that the Belgian Parliament approved the amendments “with 86 MPs voting in favor, 44 against, and 12 abstentions. The Senate had already passed the bill in December.”
However, there are strict conditions. TIME:
He or she must be terminally ill, close to death, and deemed to be suffering beyond any medical help. The child must be able to request euthanasia themselves and demonstrate they fully understand their choice. The request will then be assessed by teams of doctors, psychologists and other care-givers before a final decision is made with approval of the parents.
There has been an emotional debate on this issue with many last-minute appeals both in Belgium and abroad.
Read more here.
The issue of euthanasia is extremely delicate, sensitive, subjective — and controversial.
There are so many moral, religious, ethical, medical, emotional and legal aspects associated and entangled with it that one is certainly well advised to tread lightly and wisely when and if venturing into a discussion dealing with euthanasia.
Unlike 2012 GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum who made several ignorant and false claims about euthanasia in the Netherlands, I will try to withhold judgment and just report on a story that is making the headlines and one that, I am sure, will generate a lot of discussion and evoke a lot of emotions.
Santorum’s euthanasia rant focused on the Netherlands’ alleged forced euthanasia. He claimed that in that country euthanasia makes up ten percent of all deaths, and that forced euthanasia accounts for five percent of all deaths there. He also said that people are euthanized involuntarily because they are old or sick and further claimed that elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go into hospitals out of fear that they will not come out if they go in there sick — because of “budget” reasons — and rather go to other countries.
Dutch authorities, the press and the medical community expressed outrage at and roundly condemned, dismissed and ridiculed Santorum’s claims. But the fact remains that in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg — the Benelux countries — doctors are allowed “to take steps to actively end a patient’s life, usually by administering an overdose of sedatives,” but meeting very strict legal and medical requirements, conditions and reviews.
While euthanasia in general is controversial, it would be an understatement to say that euthanasia involving children is a contentious issue.
TIME reports that in Luxembourg an euthanasia “candidate” must be over 18 and that in the Netherlands children can request euthanasia from the age of 12.
However, “Belgium is expected to become the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on euthanasia…after an emotional debate which split the medical profession over the best way to treat a terminally ill child with a desire to end his or her life,” says TIME.
Under the new laws in Belgium—which passed the Senate in December and are before the Lower House on Thursday—any child under the age of 18 could be considered, but only if they are able to express the wish to die themselves and can demonstrate they fully understand their choice. Their request must then be assessed by teams of doctors, psychologists and other care-givers, before a final decision is made with the approval of the parents.
This, “[d]espite last-minute pleas from within Belgium and as far away as Canada, lawmakers are expected to agree with the doctors who argued that in rare cases of unbearable and irreversible suffering, children should have the same right as adults to ask to die with dignity.”
Please read more here about how pediatricians, religious groups and parents are reacting to this — need I say again? — very controversial and emotional issue.
For example, the case of a “16-year-old girl who was suffering severe complications from leukemia and was lying in a hospital bed connected to tubes, waiting to die,” and the plea by a Canadian four-year-old girl, born with a congenital heart condition, urging Belgium’s King Philippe not to sign the law.