Belgium Lawmakers to Vote on Euthanasia Law for Children
The Belgium's Parliament could change history forever. The legislators are set to vote on a bill Thursday that would extend the euthanasia law to everyone regardless of age. If the bill passes, Belgium will become the first country to allow children of all ages to end his or her life due to a terminal illness.
The nation first legalized euthanasia in 2002 for adults over the age of 18. The law stated, according to CNN that people in "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated," can choose to die. Minors were included in the original proposals, but once the final legislations were drafted, children and adolescents no longer qualified.
The latest proposal will extend the "right to die" to children under 18 with certain requirements. The child patient must show that he or she understands what euthanasia is. The child's parents or legal guardians as well as the medical team must also give consent. If Parliament passes the bill, the bill will go to the king who would sign it into law.
"That whole period of sedation, you always need to give more and more medication, and you start asking questions. And you say, 'What's the use of keeping this baby alive?'" Linda van Roy, a mother who is backing the bill, said. "We want for those children to be able to talk about euthanasia and to ask those questions and if they really want to say, 'Stop, this is it, I don't want it any more,' that they can have a choice."
The supporters of the bill stated that the new law would give children the option to end their life if they no longer want to suffer through the pain and hardships that might never leave until they die. Even if the majority of children do not pick euthanasia, the supporters believe that for the select few that want it, it could relieve their pain and suffering.
The opponents of the bill fear that vulnerable and sick children could be tricked into picking this option. Aside from children making the decision, some people are worried for the parents as well. By allowing parents to make this decision, it could add a lot of stress and remorse on their part. Furthermore, parents might clash when they are making this decision, which could negatively affect their relationship.
If signed into law, the legislators stated that no doctor would be forced to euthanize a child if he or she does not want to. Children will also have to undergo a session or sessions with a child psychologist or psychiatrist to make sure that the children are mentally capable of making such a huge decision. They must also make multiple requests for euthanasia and their illness has to be terminal. Doctors must also firmly state that there are no treatments available that could relieve the child's pain.
"Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people," the lawmakers had written according to BBC News.
Currently, in the Netherlands, euthanasia for children over the age of 12 is legal. Since the law was put into effect in 2002, only five children have opted for it.