Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions. The king is expected the sign the bill into law, making Belgium the first country to remove any age limit on the practice. In the Netherlands, Belgium's northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over 12 with parental consent.

Adult euthanasia is already legal in Belgium. A plea for euthanasia can be fulfilled by a doctor if the request is "voluntary and well-considered" and the patient is suffering unbearably with no prospect of improvement.

The new law states a child would have to be terminally ill, face "unbearable physical suffering" and make repeated requests to die before euthanasia is considered. Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to agree before a decision is made.

Protesters have lobbied politicians against the law. A man in the public gallery of Belgium's parliament shouted "murderers" in French when the vote was passed. But opinion polls have suggested broad support for the new law in Belgium, which is mostly Catholic. Church leaders have argued the law is immoral.

"The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they've become able to decide that someone should make them die," Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said at a prayer vigil last week.

Last week 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter against the law, claiming that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain. Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.
(source)

What do you think, TA? Is this an appropriate law? Is Belgium going too far?

Tags: child, euthanasia

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If only there was a way when people like doctors, church men or politicians say there is no need for euthanasia in cases of extreme suffering, to give them the same amount of pain and ask them to let us know when that pain should be stopped. If they were not willing to do it, they should then butt out of other people's lives. 

I am fed up of this moral cowardice that is afraid to let people have the right to decide to end their own suffering. Why should a young child not have the right to have their loving parents agree to this humane, albeit heart breaking, request.

If only there was a way when people like doctors, church men or politicians say there is no need for euthanasia in cases of extreme suffering, to give them the same amount of pain and ask them to let us know when that pain should be stopped. If they were not willing to do it, they should then butt out of other people's lives.

On the subject of extreme pain...

The more I've read about this law, the more I'm inclined to support it, particularly because it has such strict requirements; (1) terminal illness, (2) "unbearable suffering", and consensus between (3) the child, (4) the parent(s), (5) at least one medical doctor, and (6) at least one psychiatrist.

This is the part I'm a little puzzled by: "Last week 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter against the law, claiming that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain."

First, this claim is absolutely correct. There are drugs that can almost literally shut down the body's ability to feel pain. The downside is that they are usually addictive. This is no problem in cases of terminal illness.

If such drugs successfully remove "unbearable suffering" from the list of requirements, the child cannot legally be euthanized, and it is doubtful those who must reach a consensus would have any reason to want it anyway.

But if the child slips into an unbearable agony that no drugs can alleviate, and is doomed to a lingering, horrific death, why would any compassionate person deny that child a quick, painless death?

Opposition to this makes no sense given how rarely it will be used. That goes especially for opposition from those who claim that dignity and life are indistinguishable.

The drugs that remove all pain also turns you into a vegitable. It's is very ugly for everyone.

The drugs that remove all pain also turns you into a vegitable. It's is very ugly for everyone.

It's definitely a nasty business.

Basically they can pump opiods (morphine) into you until one of three things happens: you stop feeling pain, you pass out, or you die from it. This is a delicate thing.

You build tolerance quickly, so they have to give you more. The practical limit is reached when the amount it takes to stop the pain exceeds the amount it's safe to give you. Then there are mounting side effects; constipation, nausea, vomiting or (as you mentioned) cognitive impairment.

This is what I mean about unbearable agony that no drugs can alleviate: even the 'gold standard' drug doesn't work perfectly or forever. Thankfully, as the article points out, these situations are rare.

That is what I thought, but still we hear first hand accounts of terminally ill patients describing their suffering. When this news was on UK TV this week, one parent whose son had a rare childhood cancer, described how they had to hold him down as he writhed in pain during the chemotherapy treatments.

I trust doctors and parents enough to leave the decision up to them.

Not that there aren't potential issues, however none of these override the argument of decisions about a person being up to the person concerned (or those entrusted the decisions of a person). I have yet to see an argument with enough weight to override this ideological position.

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