Belgium government, which has already legalized euthanasia for adults is now envisaging extension of this procedure to children. Should the bill be approved, Belgium will be the first country to adopt such measure. The same project also includes granting rights for euthanasia to adults with early dementia
The question about whether children have the right to ask for their own deaths has again split the society, as advocates assert euthanasia for children, with their parents’ consent, might be the only way out of what might become an unbearably painful trap, while the opponents still claim that children are unlikely to be reasonable deciding whether they want to end their own lives.
Belgium has been the first to introduce euthanasia for adults in 2002, and since then, the number of reported cases per year has gone from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012. In the process doctors sedate the patients before giving them a lethal injection.
Various forms of what might be approaching actual euthanasia are legal in a n handful of countries in Europe: the Netherlands only allow euthanasia under specific circumstances and for children over the age of 12 with parental consent. There is also assumption present that infants can be euthanized without doctors being held responsible or taken to court is they act appropriately. Otherwise, euthanasia is only legal in Luxembourg, if talking about Europe. However, the so-called assisted suicide, when doctors only assist a patient to die without actively killing them, is legal in Switzerland.
As far as the US are concerned, only the state of Oregon grants assisted suicide requests, but only for age appropriate residents with a terminal illness.
The euthanasia-expanding bill in Belgium is proposed by the Socialist party, however, the Christian Democratic Flemish party not only opposed the legislation, but is also planning on challenging the bill in the European Court of Human Rights if it passes. The final decision needs the parliamentary approval and could take months.
Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard pointed out that “it is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might (be able) to decide to die.”
Leonard also noted that alternatives like palliative sedation make euthanasia unnecessary, at the same time relieving doctors of the burden of killing patients. Palliative sedation consists in sedating patients with life-sustaining support withdrawn, so they starve to death.
The debate of whether this procedure is ethical enough has gone far beyond Belgian borders. Charles Foster, medical law and ethics professor at Oxford University, is convinced children are incapable of making an informed decision about euthanasia, as this concept is hard even for comprehension of the adults.
Mr Foster noted, “It often happens that when people get into the circumstances they had so feared earlier, they manage to cling on all the more. Children, like everyone else, may not be able to anticipate how much they will value their lives if they were not killed.”
Voice of Russia, Washington Post