Civil Liberties

Child euthanasia: Belgium administers fatal injection to terminally-ill teenager

With children it is usually cancer: incurable sickness, unbearable pain, debilitating, degrading misery. What child wouldn’t prefer to go an be with Jesus? Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia (it’s a thing) agrees. Far better for children to be given a fatal injection than to cough up blood all night long, whether or not they go to be with Jesus. Indeed, Jesus doesn’t really come into it. Why should he? We’re talking about the exercise of free will for the alleviation of unbearable physical suffering. It is liberal, progressive and compassionate. A child could understand it, especially at the age of 17.

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, and now injects people whether or not they are suffering a terminal illness. If you’re depressed and feeling suicidal for no particular reason at all, Belgium will provide a way out. They extended euthanasia to children in 2014. It is the only country in the world that has no age restriction. At least in the Netherlands you have to be 12 years of age before you can decide you’d prefer to be with Jesus than all those nasty doctors and nurses. In Belgium, the Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia can give their blessing to your death if you’re 10, eight, six… provided you’re in unbearable physical pain and know what you’re doing.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child… (1Cor 13:11).

One hesitates to use the word ‘evil’ of statutes promulgated by well-intentioned politicians in the context of a liberal democracy, with all the constitutional checks and balances afforded by reason and experience. But Belgium’s abolition of all age restrictions on “the right to die” must surely qualify as one of the most wicked and damnable decrees in the history of Christendom.

Of course, the Belgian Parliament insists that only incurable terminally-ill children in great pain have this right, but can six-year-old children really grasp the enormity of ending their lives? Is not a journey to the undiscovered country just an awfully big adventure, where you can soar through the sky with Peter Pan, frolick in the snow with Father Christmas or live happily ever after with My Little Pony?

Proponents insist that the minor’s right to die is hemmed in with the strictest of conditions. The legislation was clear: the child must “be in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short-term”. And obviously a child can’t opt to die unless there is parent approval, so that’s even better.

But it won’t be long before “hopeless medical condition” is expanded to include those illnesses which offer the remotest glimmer of hope; and it is inevitable that “constant unbearable suffering” will eventually embrace psychiatric disorders and mental issues. And what happens in those cases where the parents disagree about the extent of their child’s suffering? What if those parents happen to be separated or divorced? And what about friends, guardians or grandparents? Don’t they get a say?

Is it just be conceivable that two parents, overwhelmed by grief and the burdens of care, under huge stress and at the end of their ability to cope, might persuade their child that it’s just better to go and be with Jesus?

The legislation stipulates that the child must evidence “a capacity of discernment and be conscious at the moment of the request”.

What discernment do children possess? Do they not speak, understand and think as children? How can a suffering child make an objective judgment about the termination of his or her life when we don’t even permit them to vote, smoke or buy fireworks? Who subjectively assesses this capacity for discernment? Who can objectively assesses their subjectivity?

The quest for ‘Assisted Suicide’ is being driven by social emotivism. Child euthanasia is simply an extension of the Brave New World. There is a certain logic to it: conclusions about death do indeed follow from the premises of life. But premises which invoke rights can be at odds with those which invoke universalisability: one cannot pursue both equality and liberty, and our post-Christian relativist culture offers no agreed way of interpreting moral argument or mediating between rival premises. And so the shrill rights of the child must necessarily include the right to die because they have the right to live.

Except that we legally slaughter our babies in the womb by the barrel load, and that is a choice of death we make on their behalf. So how can we logically deny children – identifiable individuals – the right to decide death for themselves?