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Belgium extends euthanasia to children of all ages

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A Bill to extend Belgium's euthanasia laws to children has been passed by the Belgian Parliament in a vote of 86 to 44. 

If signed into law by King Philippe, the legislation will make Belgium the first country in the world to remove all age limits on euthanasia.

Opposition

This is despite mass protests in Brussels, prayer vigils, petitions and an open letter signed by 160 Belgian paediatricians, all opposed to the new law.  Opponents have warned that vulnerable children would be put at risk and have challenged the ability of a young child to make such a profound decision over life or death. After the Belgian lawmakers had voted in favour of Bill, one man in the public gallery shouted in French: "murderers".

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brussels, Andre-Joseph Leonard, said at a prayer vigil: "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."

The new law will allow children who are regarded as ‘terminally ill’ and in great pain to ask doctors to end their lives through the administration of a lethal injection.

Palliative care

But a number of Belgian paediatricians have issued a statement highlighting that “palliative care teams for children are perfectly capable of achieving pain relief, both in hospital and at home.”

They also emphasised that “a sensitive child may perceive the option of euthanasia as a solution or a duty, especially if the child feels that the parents can no longer bear to see him suffer” and pointed out that in practice there was no objective method for determining whether a child was “gifted with the ability of discernment and judgment” to make a decision to end his or her life.

Cross-continent opposition

Meanwhile, in a key demonstration of cross-continent opposition, parliamentarians from across Europe have now laid down a motion at the Council of Europe, also denouncing the Belgian Bill. Written declaration no. 567, is entitled ‘Legalisation of euthanasia for children in Belgium’ and states that extending euthanasia to children:

1. Betrays some of the most vulnerable children in Belgium by accepting that their lives may no longer have any inherent value or worth and that they should die.

2. Mistakenly assumes that children are able to give appropriate informed consent to euthanasia and that they can understand the grave meaning and complex consequences associated with such a decision.

3. Promotes the unacceptable belief that a life can be unworthy of life which challenges the very basis of civilised society.

36 British MPs and Peers are members of the parliamentary assembly and seven have already signed the declaration. 

Sources:

BBC

Dr Peter Saunders' blog >

 

 

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