Belgium's upper and lower houses of parliament have now passed legislation extending to children the right to choose euthanasia for "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated." The issue has bitterly divided the country for years but 75% of the population supports the new law, USA Today reports. Opponents say children lack the maturity to make such a decision and are too often dominated by parents and caregivers. Supporters say it is not about whether, but how, to die.
The term euthanasia is used by the media and apparently by supporters, whereas in the U.S. it would probably be used only by opponents.
By Sumi Somaskanda and Jabeen Bhatti, February 14, 2014, in USA Today
Some interesting background from the article:
Belgium, one of the few countries that has allowed euthanasia, first passed legislation legalizing euthanasia in 2002 and in 2012, the number of those opting for it increased 25% to 1,432 cases. The mainly secular country, which has a strong Roman Catholic tradition, is one of just a few European countries to allow some form of assisted dying.
Euthanasia for adults is permitted in Luxembourg and in special cases for terminally ill patients age 12 or older in the Netherlands. Switzerland has allowed assisted suicide by doctors since the 1940s, offering the service in clinics such as Dignitas. Still, euthanasia remains illegal.
Under current Belgian law, parents of terminally ill children can opt for palliative sedation, where high doses of sedatives are prescribed at the end of the patient's life. Food and liquids are then withdrawn to speed up death, which normally occurs within hours or days.
This, say opponents of the current measure, is the proper way for terminally ill children to die.
CNN's treatment of the bill includes a human-interest story about a supporter motivated by the suffering not of the child, but of the parent, who
"had to watch as her baby ... slowly faded away under palliative sedation, food and liquid withheld so her suffering was not further prolonged. "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?' " van Roy said. She wishes she could have administered a fatal dose of medication to make the end of her daughter's short life come more quickly.
CNN also says 175 pediatricians signed a letter opposing the law, saying children have never truly freely requested euthanasia and that palliative care makes it unnecessary.