Euthanasia is always a controversial subject. And it gets even more controversial when the idea of child euthanasia is brought into the light.
The country of Belgium brought child euthanasia to the forefront earlier this week when the country's parliament legalized child euthanasia. According to the BBC, when the bill is signed into law by the king, Belgium will be the first country in the world to allow euthanasia without any age restrictions.
The idea of allowing a doctor to end a child's life - even if said child is terminally ill, in constant pain and with no hope of recovery - is one that tends to provoke a visceral reaction. It's not nor should it be a pleasant thought. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't think about it. And just because the thought of euthanizing a child isn't pleasant doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed.
The case for allowing child euthanasia is the same case that I'd make for allowing euthanasia in general. It's simple, I think. People should be allowed to decide when their own life is no longer worth living. If someone's life is nothing but constant, agonizing pain with no hope of recovery, it makes sense they would want to end their life. If someone has a terminal illness that, as it progresses, makes it harder and harder to live, it makes sense they would want to end their life.
And that brings us to Belgium. Opponents of the Belgian bill are arguing that children aren't capable of making that decision. But the bill provides for that. According to the BBC, these are the conditions for child euthanasia:
- Patient must be conscious of their decision
- Request must be approved by parents and medical team
- Illness must be terminal
- Patient must be in great pain with no treatment available to alleviate their distress
The great thing about the Belgian bill is that it does something laws in other countries do not: It acknowledges that children are capable of and should be allowed to take ownership of their own lives and make the decision that their life is so unbearable as to not be worth living. Sure, there are kids that are decidedly incapable of making that decision, but that's where condition 2 ("Request must be approved by parents and medical team") comes in. The bill includes checks to make sure the decision is being made by someone who is able to make it.
And so I applaud Belgium. Allowing people - including children - to die with some degree of dignity and on their own terms should be a basic human right and Belgium has granted it. Here's hoping more countries follow that lead.
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