Belgium has become the first country in the world to legalize the euthanizing or “assisted suicide” for kids of any age. The move comes after the Senate approved the proposal in December, with church officials and some pediatricians denouncing the law as inhumane.
The debate which lasted months ended up in the House of Representatives, where the country’s lawmakers paved the way for Belgium to become the second country right behind Netherlands to legalize the assisted suicide of children. Belgium though has gone a step further, lifting restrictions for child of any age to be legally euthanized. In Netherlands, the child must be at least the age of 12 to considered for the treatment of assisted suicide.
According to the law, any child who seeks to “end their suffering” after coming down with an incurable disease that causes them great pain, must be “conscious” and have a “capacity of discernment.” The parents must approve, and the child’s capacity of discernment would be determined by a licensed psychiatrist of psychologist.
Socialist MP Karine Lalieux said “It is not a question of imposing euthanasia on anyone… but of allowing a child not to agonize in pain.”
There are many facets to the issue of physician assisted suicide, with even some supporters of the treatment saying that while assisted suicide is appropriate for adults, extending the treatment to children is taking it too far.
It was Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a pathologist, who brought the issue of assisted suicide to the forefront of national conversation in America after he openly admitted to assisting at least 130 patients to their deaths. Kevorkian had them go through a rigorous test before selecting which patients he would choose to perform assisted suicide on. Multiple recorded camera interviews, assessments of their pain and suffering, as well as analysis of their mental state were all conducted, lasting months at a time. Kevorkian openly admitted that he denied hundreds of others the treatment because they didn’t fit the “criteria” for assisted suicide. To top this off, Kevorkian made sure that the patients themselves were the ones to push the button which would inject lethal doses of chemicals into their bloodstream.
At the time in Michigan, there was no law saying that Dr. Kevorkian couldn’t perform assisted suicide operations, leaving him in a legal grey area. Prosecutors had tried for years to build a case against him, and it wasn’t until one of his last patients, a woman who was too ill to push the button herself, had Dr. Kevorkian crossed the legal boundary. By pushing the button for her, he had by legal definition “murdered” someone, even if it was with her consent.
So while Europe has 3 countries which have assisted suicide laws on the books, the United States, and elsewhere, continue to view the medical procedure of assisted suicide as too taboo for mainstream medicine. Dr. Kevorkian’s “Right to Die” campaign has its supporters, and 3 years since his death in 2011, activists still push to have this medical operation legalized.
And while skeptics of the procedure say it is inhumane, Dr. Kevorkian and his supporters, as well their counterparts in Belgium and elsewhere, say that helping put people out of their misery if they so choose is more humane than letting them suffer.
It was Dr. Kevorkian who once famously said “dying is not a crime.”
By John Amaruso
New York Times