Belgium considering extending euthanasia law to children

Thu, 20 Dec 2012

Belgium is considering allowing children and Alzheimer’s sufferers to ask to be euthanised.

The proposed changes to the country’s decade-old law were submitted to Parliament on Tuesday by the Socialist Party.

The draft legislation calls for “the law to be extended to minors if they are capable of discernment or affected by an incurable illness or suffering that we cannot alleviate”.

Legalise

Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia, but it applies to people over the age of 18.

The European Institute of Bioethics has already criticised the current law in Belgium, in a report reviewing ten years of euthanasia in the country.

Dr Peter Saunders, director of campaign group Care not Killing, warned in response to the report: “The lessons are clear. Once you relax the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide steady extension will follow as night follows day.”

Escalation

He added that what we are witnessing in Belgium is “the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included”.

Socialist party leader Thierry Giet said “The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to”.

Documented cases of euthanasia in Belgium have increased 500% since 2003.

Deaths

According to official figures, some 1,133 cases of euthanasia were recorded in 2011, about one percent of all deaths in the country.

In 2010, a report showed that some 120 nurses had been involved in killing patients without their “explicit request”.

And last year, a disturbing study showed that people being killed by euthanasia in Belgium are having their organs harvested for transplant surgery.

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