Belgium’s laws have from now on made euthanasia legal for people of all ages living in the country. Belgium was one of the first countries to legalize euthanasia back in 2002 but limited it to a certain age. It was originally decided that euthanasia was an option for anyone 12 years and older but now it has become available to minors of any age, if they ever require it.
Euthanasia, also known as “mercy killing”, is a process or practice of intentionally ending a life to end pain or suffering. Often patients contract diseases that are unbearable and do not have any immediate remedies. For this reason the idea of intentionally ending someone’s life was introduced. There are several forms of euthanasia which include voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is where the procedure is carried out with the patient’s consent. For non-voluntary, the patient is unable to make the decision and so the decision is made for them. Involuntary euthanasia, however, is performed without the consent or agreement of the patient.
Those opposing the procedure stated that not only does euthanasia weaken the respect everyone has for life, it also becomes a solution to problems that would otherwise have a different approach. To them, euthanasia could ultimately become a slippery slope which would possibly lead to other forms of euthanasia. Arguments made in favor are that the process is not a means of shortening the lifespan of an individual, but is an escape for someone who is terminally ill, saving them from the pain and suffering.
Originally intended to help, the process was met with mixed reactions. Some defended it while others spoke against it. There are even varied opinions among government bodies of different countries as each has a different outlook on the matter. Some consider the entire concept to be immoral while some only regard certain forms of euthanasia as illegal. Belgium, along with Luxembourg and the Netherlands, became one of the first countries to legalize the use of euthanasia. While there are still some restrictions as to who is allowed to exercise this right in countries where euthanasia is legal, Belgium recently made euthanasia legal for all ages.
While no age restrictions have been placed, some criteria have been set. The very first is that euthanasia must be the absolute last resort in any sort of situation. The only time when a minor will be allowed to undergo the procedure is if all other options have been completely exhausted. Approval from parents must be obtained and more importantly the child must be conscious of the situation and must have the ability to discern it. The decision has been met with criticism from religious groups and certain doctors who demand that the decision be revoked. Many even signed an anti-bill open letter claiming that modern medicine should be enough to cure any form of disease and that such extremes should not be taken.
With only three countries to have legalized euthanasia so far, the procedure has yet to become an acceptable medical solution. Some remain opposed to it and opt to openly voice their disapproval against it. Despite the views many have on euthanasia, Belgium has decided to legalize it for citizens of all ages, becoming the first country in the world to do so.
By Hammad Ali