The world is remarkably silent, despite the alarming and previously unthinkable prospect of doctors – whose primary purpose is only to save and preserve life – being authorized to kill children. But when doctors have been legally allowed for so many years to perform abortion, thereby killing unborn children, perhaps this is all tragically inevitable.
In the face of widespread public indifference and a largely silent media, Belgium looks set on passing a law allowing doctors to kill terminally ill children. Yesterday, the Senate justice and social affairs committee approved a draft bill allowing the practice. The law, which still has to go to a vote of the full parliament, would make Belgium the first country in the world to remove the age limit for the procedure.
Three quarters of Belgians approve of the proposal, according to surveys, making it likely the bill will pass.
The proposed legislation would allow the euthanasia of terminally-ill minors so long as they are judged capable of deciding for themselves and are in pain that is “unbearable and cannot be alleviated”, according to AFP. A medical team would offer advice and their parents’ approval would be required. The bill also requires that a psychologist evaluate the child’s ability to choose to die. Opponents have said it is impossible to determine whether a child is able to take such a decision.
The Netherlands, a neighboring country, already allows euthanasia for children as young as 12 years, although only five cases have been recorded since 2002. Belgium would go further by removing any reference in its law to the age of the child.
Belgium’s bishops and other religious leaders have warned the measure risks “destroying the functioning of society”.
“We are also opposed to suffering, whether physical or moral, and especially the suffering of children,” Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, president of Belgium’s bishops conference, said in a joint statement with Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders last month.
“But to suggest minors can decide on their own euthanasia is to falsify their power of judgment and their freedom,” they added. “To suggest persons with dementia can also be euthanized is to deny their dignity and hand them over to the arbitrary judgment of decision-makers.”
Belgium is already one of the world’s most liberal countries when it comes to euthanasia, making it available to adults who are not terminally ill. In 2012, Belgium recorded about 1,200 cases of euthanasia and the rate of killings has rapidly increased since legalization in 2002.
Catholics nominally make up three-quarters of the Belgian population, but secularism has long taken hold in the country and only one in 10 attends Church services.