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Belgium grants euthanasia right to terminally ill kids

Published time: February 13, 2014 20:26
AFP Photo / Etienne Ansotte

AFP Photo / Etienne Ansotte

Belgium has become the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children after the lower house of parliament passed the law by a large majority Thursday.

86 lawmakers in the Chamber of Representatives voted in favor with 44 against and 12 abstentions. The governing socialists, the liberals and most of the opposition parties supported it, while the Christian Democrats voted against.

The bill caused a rare union between Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders who issued a joint declaration against it.

But its supporters insist that it is humane and there are clear checks and balances in the law to prevent it being abused.

“This is not about lethal injections for children. This is about terminally ill children, whose death is imminent and who suffer greatly,” said Carnia Van Cauter, a lawmaker for the Flemish Liberal Democrats who backed the law.

The law states that children seeking euthanasia must be terminally ill, rather than just in an unbearable state of suffering, which is the qualification for adults. Adult euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002.

Protesters, who call themselves the "yellow jackets", hold banners and placards as they demonstrate against a new law authorizing euthanasia for children, in Brussels February 11, 2014. (Reuters / Laurent Dubrule)

Children who wish to end their lives must be “capable of discernment”, the parents must approve the child’s decision and a psychologist must test them to confirm they understand what they are doing.

But opponents say these rules are arbitrary and are the beginning of a slippery slope, which they say amounts to a “banalisation” of euthanasia.

Andre Joseph Leonard, the Archbishop of Brussels, questioned the approach of giving minors the right to decide their own death when they are not allowed to make a host of other emotional and economic decisions until they are 18.

Sonja Develter, a nurse who has cared for some 200 children in the final stages of their lives, and who opposed the law said that she didn’t expect many children to opt to die.

“In my experience as a nurse, I never had a child asking to end their life,” she told Reuters before the vote.

She added that requests for euthanasia often come from the parents of children who are emotionally exhausted from seeing their children fight for life for so long.

The vote has attracted more attention abroad than in Belgium. None of the major newspapers ran it on their front pages and TV news reports concentrated on the international coverage.

Euthanasia is also legal for adults in the neighboring Netherlands and Luxembourg, while in Switzerland it is legal if the person takes on an active role. It is also legal in the US states of Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.In the Netherlands children over 12 can request to die.

Comments (22)


Dave Kim 16.02.2014 19:11

[quote name='Igor Nemo' time='14.02.2014 04:59']"The bill caused a rare union between Christian, Muslim and Jewish..."[/quo te]
Right. What jesuit slave culture elitist genocidal lies doctors are taught in US is lot lot worse than nothing. There's way too much [state sanctioned] corruption in medical now, in addition to plain and simple conflict of interest. All medical ought to be price controlled, but mostly the people ought to be confident that doctors are no longer covertly indoctrinated into committing torture, murder, and genocide. Firstly lawyers and doctors ought to answer to the people, not other lawyers.


rogirl 15.02.2014 11:51

@Alan Rigby Marr,
I agree with your post 100%. The British Medical Journal did an article on this subject about 8 years ago saying that people who are ill tend towards depression and exhibit an altered state of mind and are not capable in this state to make a correct decision. Many of the posters here are well meaning but very ignorent. A civilised society does not put down/kill human beings. A civilised society cares for human beings until the last breath, and maybe in the meantime technological advances can produce a cure.


Alan Rigby Marr 15.02.2014 10:15

With the advances in modern palliative care much suffering is relieved and so the concept of killing people to relieve them of suffering is no longer a case for euthanasia . The lasts days for relations and the dying can be very important. It is also dangerous to have euthanasia because people have been killed solely because they are suffering from depression.

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