Child euthanasia voted in by Belgian parliament
Fri, 14 Feb 2014
Belgium has become the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of all ages.
Previously the law only allowed euthanasia for individuals over the age of 18.
Yesterday the parliament supported the legislation by 86 votes to 44 with 12 abstentions.
Under the legislation parents have to agree to their child being killed, and medics must believe that the child has a “state of discernment”.
But Sonja Becq – a Christian Democrat MP – highlighted faults with the proposals saying: “Can you tell me what a ‘state of discernment’ means?”
Last week over 160 Belgian paediatric doctors wrote a letter opposing the change, but the law was passed and now awaits the formality of the King’s signature.
One of the paediatricians, Dr Stefaan van Gool, described his concerns over what the change may mean for vulnerable children saying: “If one opens the door, you have no control any more of what is going through this door”.
Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults in 2002.
Speaking before the vote a freelance journalist who has cerebral palsy said he may never have been alive if the Belgian law existed in Britain.
Alex Taylor’s parents were told by a doctor that he would “never think, let alone speak, read or write”, but they did not give up fighting for him.
Writing in The Times he said: “As it turned out, I studied history and politics at Warwick University, and have been known to have a sense of humour.
“I do not blame the doctor — people with a cerebral haemorrhage like mine are not supposed to buck the system.”
However, he continued: “I have wondered what might have crossed my parents’ minds had euthanasia been an option.
“Recently I was given a letter my mother wrote to a friend soon after my birth. It spoke of ‘Baby Taylor (no name yet) . . . still hanging on, stable but with so many things happening to such a small, little person . . .
“‘As you imagine, we are living from day to day dreading each morning in case he is no longer there’.”
“But”, Taylor commented, “I am still here, despite what the doctors said.
“If they can be wrong, what chance do parents have judging the sanctity of their child’s life?”