Child euthanasia debate begins in Belgium

Fri, 22 Feb 2013

Senators in Belgium began to consider allowing euthanasia for children this week, eleven years after the country legalised the practice for adults.

Socialist Party Senator Philippe Mahoux, one of the architects of the 2002 law, now wants to extend the legislation to cover children of any age.

The move is being resisted by the Roman Catholic Church, which said it backs a “palliative care approach”.

Killed

Witnesses appeared in the upper house of the Belgian parliament to discuss the proposal on Wednesday, in deliberations which will last several months.

Once the hearings are over senators and Belgian MPs will examine the proposals.

Under the current law there is an exception to allow children aged 15 and over to be euthanased, if they are “legally emancipated” from their parents.

But Mr Mahoux is seeking to broaden the law to include all children of any age with a serious and incurable disease and a sound mind.

Blind

Last month it emerged that identical Belgian twins who were not terminally ill were killed by lethal injection.

Marc and Eddy Verbessem, who were born deaf, sought euthanasia after discovering they were both going blind.

They believed their lives would not be worth living if they could not see each other, according to their brother.

Care

The pair, aged 45, had to overcome strong resistance from their family to be killed.

Their local hospital refused to euthanise them, and raised doubts about whether their situation met the requirements of Belgian legislation.

A professor of medical ethics at Leuven in Belgium criticised the killing saying: “In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty.”

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