After legalizing euthanasia for adults in 2002, the Belgian parliament in 2014 passed a law allowing children of all ages to choose euthanasia, provided parental consent is granted.
Now the first case has occurred of a terminally-ill minor who was helped to die by doctors in Belgium. The minor was months away from turning 18.
Other requests for euthanasia for minors during this time were turned down.
Under Belgian law, a child must be terminally ill, face “unbearable physical suffering” and make repeated requests to die before euthanasia can be carried out. The procedure also requires a psychological evaluation of the patient’s mental state; suffering stemming from psychiatric problems is excluded.
The term designates an intervention carried out with the intention of ending a life to relieve suffering, for example a lethal injection administered by a doctor.
The number of patients choosing to be euthanized in Belgium has risen more than eight-fold since the procedure was legalized, with 2,021 cases reported last year, according to Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia.
Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Colombia. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg also allow “assisted suicide”, helping another person to take their own life, for example by prescribing a lethal injection which is then administered by the patient.
Switzerland also permits assisted suicide provided the person assisting “acts unselfishly”.
Canada and the American states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana have legalized “assisted dying.”
Great Britain last year rejected an “assisted dying”.
There are numerous reasons why permitting euthanasia can set a country on a slippery slope and end in outright murder. Besides Jewish law stringently forbidding euthanasia in all cases, doctors, professionals and ethicists list many other reasons why it should be prohibited, among them:
* it is increasingly difficult to determine when an illness is terminal
* critically sick patients may seek euthanasia during the height of their sufferings despite a chance to recover
* family members weary of dealing with a chronically sick relative and governments interested in getting rid of high-cost patients may utilize it to get rid of a patient
* patients suffering from emotional and mental illnesses, people in midlife crises and teenagers in despair may seek a way out of their misery by euthanasia
* the option of euthanasia will prevent doctors from doing their maximum to heal a gravely ill patient
* the entire image of a doctor as an agent of hope and healing in the public perception will be undermined.