BELGIUM – Lawmakers in Belgium recently approved a measure that will allow doctors to euthanize children of all ages.
As previously reported, the Belgian Senate overwhelmingly approved a child euthanization bill in December, sending it to the lower legislative house. This month, the lower house voted 86-44 in favor of the measure, despite some international criticism. Belgium’s King Philippe is expected to sign the bill into law.
Once the new measure is enacted, terminally ill children will have the option to end their lives via lethal injection. As long as children understand what euthanasia is and have approval from parents and doctors, they will be free to choose assisted suicide.
Belgium, a predominantly secular country, first sanctioned euthanasia for adults in 2002. Now, the small European nation will become only the second country in the world—along with the Netherlands—to allow child euthanization.
Supporters of the child euthanization measure argue that terminally ill individuals should be allowed to die, regardless of age.
“This [bill] is an act of humanity that allows the doctor to make the most humane course of action for his patient,” Philippe Mahoux, a senator who sponsored the legislation, told The New York Times. “What is scandalous is the suffering of sick children when they are going to die.”
Linda van Roy is a mother from Belgium who supports the new euthanization measures. Two years ago, her 10-month-old daughter slowly died from a terminal disease, and she wishes she could have ended her baby’s life more quickly.
“That whole period of sedation, you always need to give more and more medication, and you start asking questions,” van Roy told CNN. “And you say, ‘What’s the use of keeping this baby alive?’ ”
“We want for those children to be able to talk about euthanasia and to ask those questions and if they really want to say, ‘Stop, this is it, I don’t want it anymore,’ that they can have a choice,” she added.
However, many people voiced opposition to the euthanasia bill, stating that children should never be asked whether or not they want to intentionally end their lives.
“The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die,” observed Andre-Joseph Leonard, an archbishop in Belgium.
American businessman and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes likewise expressed concern about the Belgian measure, opining that it exemplifies the “slippery slope” of euthanasia.
“We are on the malignantly slippery slope to becoming a society like that envisioned by Nazi Germany, one in which ‘undesirables’ are disposed of like used tissue,” Forbes wrote in a recent column. “The Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities sidetracked the eugenics movement. But now it’s making a comeback in new garb—we want to kill only to reduce suffering.”
“As euthanasia becomes more accepted—and we become more numb to the horror of murdering people like this—we’ll descend to the next abomination: pressuring the sick to discontinue treatment for a likely fatal illness in the name of ‘saving scarce resources’ for people who have more years ahead of them,” he suggested.
“The true mark of a civilization is in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” Forbes concluded.