In 50-17 vote yesterday, the Belgian Senate approved a bill that would allow euthanasia for children. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for final approval before being sent to the King to be signed into law. Most political observers are predicting the passage of the bill.
Currently the law in Belgium allows euthanasia requests for those over 18 and of sound mind, although it is acknowledged that these restrictions are widely ignored. The bill allows euthanasia, with parental consent, for children experiencing intolerable physical pain and who are suffering from a terminal medical condition.
Since legalization of euthanasia in 2002, Belgium has seen a nearly 500 percent increase in deaths by euthanasia. Various studies have found that patients in hospitals are increasingly being killed without their consent or the consent of their families.
Tom Mortier, an anti-euthanasia advocate and lecturer in chemistry at Leuven University College in Leuven, Belgium, whose own mother was euthanized by one of the nation’s foremost doctors, called yesterday’s vote “insanity.”
He pointed to research showing the growing abuses of euthanasia in the country. “You can’t be a little bit in favor of euthanasia,” he told LifeSiteNews.com. “Then, you are lost…. you will open Pandora’s box and this is what is happening in Belgium.”
In 2010, research published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found that 32 percent of euthanasia deaths in the Flemish region of Belgium are done without an explicit request. A second study by the CMAJ the same year found that nearly 45 percent of euthanasia deaths involving nurses in Belgium were without a specific request.
Research published the same year by the British Medical Journal also found that only 52.8 percent of all euthanasia deaths were officially reported, as is required by the law.
According to some reports, there are increasing cases of elderly Belgians who are afraid of be hospitalized over the potential that they may be euthanized.
“This law isn’t about the patients, but it gives a licence to kill for the doctors,” said Mortier.
Mortier’s mother was euthanized by lethal injection in April 2012 by Wim Distelmans, the doctor most known for euthanizing in controversial situations. She had been suffering from chronic depression.
News that Distelmans had euthanized 45-year-old twins who were going blind made headlines around the world last Christmas, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. But despite his habit of pushing of the envelope, the Belgian government has Distelmans chairing the commissions that decide whether euthanasia cases have been carried out in accordance with the law.
“Everything we know about Belgian euthanasia flows through the hands of its leading practitioner,” said Mortier. “Can a man who is judge, jury and executioner be expected to tell the world about the defects in his euthanasia empire?”
In an opinion piece published in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper last week warning Quebec against following Belgium on the path to euthanasia, Mortier wrote about his mother’s death.
“Her departure wasn’t the serene family gathering, full of peace and reconciliation, which euthanasia supporters gush about,” he said. “The University Hospital in Brussels phoned my wife the day after.”
“It was the first we had heard of it. My mother died without her closest family at her bedside.”
“This law hurts immensely,” Mortier said. “I don’t understand why my country isn’t questioning it more.”
Ruth von Fuchs, President of the Right to Die Society of Canada, defended the Belgian proposal yesterday in comments to LifeSiteNews. Speaking for herself, rather than for the Right to Die Society, which she says does not have an official stance, she said the bill “acknowledges that young people can possess enough ‘capacity of discernment’ to decide that no life at all would be a better situation for them than continued life of the kind they are now living and will keep on living until they die without help.”
Von Fuchs acknowledges that the Belgian law sets no age limit whatsoever for agreeing to euthanasia. “Many laws and regulations do set some (voting age, drinking age, age of consent to sexual intercourse, etc.) so people often assume that a law about aid in dying should set age limits,” she siad. “People who make this assumption need to remember that the design of the world does not include a minimum age for the ability to suffer.”
However, for Alex Schadenberg the President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, the Belgian Senate’s decision is “a logical extension of legalizing euthanasia in 2002.” “Extending it to children and people with dementia is a bad end to a disastrous law,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.
He warned that Quebec’s bill 52 is based on the Belgian law and must be stopped.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has launched a petition to counter the Quebec euthanasia bill here.