Belgium is close to legalizing euthanasia for terminally ill minors. PHOTO: Robert Lawton, CC License
Belgium is a few legislative steps from becoming the first nation to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill children. The move is sparking debates around morality and when it is okay to end a life.
Belgium’s law creates certain necessary but subjective parameters around when euthanasia is an acceptable option. Specifically, the child has to be in “constant and unbearable physical suffering” and equipped “with a capacity of discernment.”
Both criteria are something that most of us agree are necessary for euthanasia to be okay (if you believe euthanasia is ever okay): the child has to know what choice is being made, and they have to be living a life that is physically awful. Depression, anxiety and other mental issues, however crushing, are not a cause for euthanasia under Belgium’s law.
And that, to me anyway, sounds okay, as long as those criteria are strictly held to. The issue is whether there is any room for abuse here, because this is a realm where a single mistake is a horrible tragedy. One hopes, and mostly assumes that children will only be euthanized in the most dire cases: terminally ill, life is an absolute struggle, and the child is mature enough to understand that the choice is being made to end his or her life.
In some cases, this is clearly the most humane option. The best option when there are no good ones. I applaud Belgium’s courage for taking this step. That said, I would encourage anyone facing this decision to shoot for a miracle first, because sometimes they happen. Perhaps the United States, which only allows euthanasia for people who are on life support, should consider expanding its euthanasia laws.
What do you think?