Belgium is considering enacting a law that would allow children to be euthanized with their parents’ consent. Euthanasia has already been legal in the country for citizens over the age of 18 since 2002. The law would also apply to adults with early dementia, AP reports.
The bill has become a source of both political and religious controversy in the country, approved by Belgium’s leading Socialist party but criticized by the minority — the Christian Democratic Flemish Party.
Members of the latter party as well as the party’s supporters have argued that minors are not develped enough to be able to choose whether or not they should live or die.
“It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might [be able] to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph said in a Senate hearing regarding the bill.
Charles Foster, an Oxford University Professor medical law and ethics, agrees with Andre-Joseph’s sentiments.
“It often happens that when people get into the circumstances they had so feared earlier, they manage to cling on all the more. Children, like everyone else, may not be able to anticipate how much they will value their lives if they were not killed.”
Other academics, however, argue that the law aims to help children who are suffering. “The principle of euthanasia for children sounds shocking at first, but it’s motivated by compassion and protection. It’s unfair to provide euthanasia differently to some citizens and not to others if the need is equal.”
Although the law is currently being reviewed, it may take a long time before a decision is made either way. Few other countries have similar euthanasia or assisted suicide laws.