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Culture of Death
Belgian Senate Approves Child Euthanasia

Yesterday the Belgium Senate approved, by a vote of 50-17, a bill allowing terminally ill children to opt for euthanasia. As long as the child meets the normal Belgium standards for euthanasia (terminal; in great pain; conscious of this decision; has parental and medical approval), there will no longer be any age limit on the practice. The BBC has more:

During the Senate debate, supporters of the bill said it would empower doctors and terminally-ill children to make a difficult decision.

“There is no age for suffering and, next to that, it’s very important that we have a legal framework for the doctors who are confronted with this demand today and for the minors, for the capable minors, who are suffering today, and who I think should have the freedom to choose how they cope with their suffering,” said Senator Jean-Jacques de Gucht, of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats.

This story shows just how quickly allowing limited mercy killing for terminally ill adults can lead to wider political and social consequences. It’s now common knowledge that euthanasia cases skyrocketed in Belgium after it was legalized for adults—the number of cases increased by 25 percent from 2011 to 2012—and that legality manufactures demand. It’s less often acknowledged that legalizing euthanasia can give cover to people who want to pressure relatives into it for financial or other reasons.

Consider the Netherlands, where doctors are never prosecuted for euthanizing children under age 12, even though that is still legally forbidden. There the illness doesn’t have to be terminal—just very painful—and the Royal Dutch Medical Association says the pain doesn’t even have to be physical.  That same association has recently come out in favor of euthanizing infants and newborns, a practice which has already been going on for several years.

But never fear. While both Belgium and the Netherlands are busy allowing euthanasia for people who aren’t even old enough to consent to sex by their own laws, the Royal Dutch Medical Association has launched another campaign: stamping out circumcision, which is a “violation of children’s rights.”

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  • Vadim Pashkov

    While euthanasia cases skyrocketed in Belgium mercy killing skyrocketed in USA where

    euthanasia is illegal

  • Andrew Allison

    This issue is fraught, albeit not for the reasons which WRM’s faith causes to be put forth. I don’t, as yet, have an opinion, but it does appear to me that TF is attempting to eat it’s cake and have it too. Under what circumstances does a “child” have the right to make major life decisions. If (as I happen to think) there are some which a “child” is not equipped to make (abortion springs to mind in addition to euthanasia, circumcision, drinking, drugs, driving, school, etc.), surely the parents retain the right to do so. Thus it appears to me that if a child in a country which permits euthanasia is able to convince its parents that it wishes to be euthanized, it should be the parents’ decision to make. The real problem with this law, I think, is that if children are empowered to terminate their own lives, then surely they can do anything else they wish. As I wrote above, I’m conflicted, and look forward to (reasoned, rather than faith-based) responses.

    • Fred

      Faith-based and reasoned are not antonyms.

      • Andrew Allison

        Let’s just agree to disagree. I believe that such issues should be argued on their merits, not on the basis of some higher authority. Specifically, in this case, what should be the limits of in loco parentis?

        • qet

          The question is one of ethics and morals, not utility. Ethical arguments based on utility are simply ethics avoidance. Your suggestion as to argument on the merits merely substitutes a different question for the one at issue, and the substitute question will be subject to the same kind of metaphysics that you have decided in advance has no place in consideration of the original question. Faith-based is not a synonym for religious sectarian zealotry or mysticism. People (and I am not saying you are one of them) who haughtily pronounce themselves to be interested only in “evidence-based” policy are practising a faith every bit as much as any Catholic.

          • Andrew Allison

            Of course the discussion of social issues is based on morals and ethics. Are you arguing that the only source of them is religion?

          • qet

            No, or possibly yes. Meaning–I am not certain. That is, I am not certain that there is any true moral or ethical precept that does not have its origin somewhere in some religion. At least, we would have to agree on a definition of “religion.” Christian thought has embraced Plato, for example, from the beginning, so is reference to Plato reference to a religious source or not? I understand you to mean that if someone simply recites a passage from the New Testament as their authority for a moral position, you will reject that out of hand. But if the same precept is found elsewhere? Is it then cleansed of its association with Scripture? And what about the Old Testament or the Mishna? These are not “religious” sources in the same way as is, say, the Gospel of Luke. So is the entirety of Jewish thought off limits as well? I guess what I am suggesting is that when you strip away all religion indiscriminately, all you are left with as a method of ethics is utilitarianism, which I personally see as having nothing whatever to do with ethics.

          • Andrew Allison

            There is another possible explanation, namely that religions codify what experience teaches are successful social strategies (Thou shalt not . . ., etc.). The trouble is that religion is static and society is not. In the present case, for example, the issue would not have arisen 2000, or even 200 years ago (the patient would have died). Similarly, there was a very good reason not to eat pork.
            In sum, we have not yet come to terms with the issues raised by dramatically increased longevity and medical advances, and need to. The Golden Rule seems a good enough place as any to start.

  • lukelea

    It’s easy to sound off on this but I think we have to look at the cases one by one.

  • Corlyss

    Medical advances that can keep people alive indefinitely crashes into the funding limits for such flights of compassion. It’s a moral dilemma. I can’t criticize them for wanting to do for humans what we do for animals. These are not easy decisions, really. Glibness and an appreciation of irony is not going to see one thru the public policy process on this issue. It would be different if people were just killing children because they were inconvenient . . . oh, wait, we call that abortion, even when it’s infanticide.

  • mgoodfel

    As a disabled person (since age 7), I kind of resent the “your life is worthless” attitude implied by these laws. I think that’s a cultural attitude that should not be reinforced by government.

    I also think that assisted suicide isn’t about giving people the *ability* to die, but rather *permission* to die. They want some authority figure to say, in effect, “you’ve tried hard enough, so now you can give up without shame.”

    My attitude is that if you hate your life that much, you can kill yourself in any number of ways. People object that there’s pain or even that it’s “too messy”! If the pain and embarrassment of suicide is worse than the pain of continuing your life, then your life can’t be too bad, can it?

    So keep it illegal. That will prevent people from being talked into assisted suicide when they are just depressed. And anyone who really has a horrible life with no chance of improvement can still just kill themselves and end it all.

    The only exceptions will be “locked in” or completely paralyzed people who simply cannot end their own lives. That’s a very small number and I don’t think we should create assisted suicide just for those cases.

  • Joseph Blieu

    This reminds me that I need to modify my will with a clause that the person giving permission to pull my plug is excluded from my estate.

  • AD_Rtr_OS

    Of course they did, those kids don’t vote.

    They are all Albert Shanker’s:

    “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of children.”

  • Anthony

    I think the key phrase here is “terminally ill.” Professor, they are already dead. No?

  • exhelodrvr

    Next up, the homeless!

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