By Juan Duran
In 2002, the Netherlands was the first country in Europe to legalize euthanasia for adults as well as seriously sick patients 12 years of age and older. This week, Belgium, which already allows euthanasia for adults, passed a measure through its upper house lifting all age restriction on legal and medical induced death, making it the first country to do so. The law says that children under the age of 18 who are close to death, experiencing “constant and unbearable suffering” and can demonstrate a “capacity for discernment” meaning they fully comprehend the consequences of their choice, are able to make a request for euthanasia with the written consent of a parent.
Despite widespread support of the law and its approval in the upper house of parliament in December, there has been much dissent as to law’s standing on ethical and moral grounds. It has faced vociferous opposition from religious leaders, medical professionals, and conservative politicians all arguing that the law will set Belgium down a perilous ethical path. In many European countries, the idea of euthanasia in children is still considered morally repugnant largely because of the lingering memories of Nazis killing thousands of children they deemed mentally and physically impaired. Nonetheless, with many supporters of the law calling it an act of humanity for those facing an imminent and painful death, the measure is expected to be signed into law by King Philippe.
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