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In Theory: Belgium, suffering children and euthanasia

February 21, 2014

The small European country of Belgium is in the news after its parliament voted to remove age restrictions from the country's euthanasia laws. If King Philippe signs the bill into law, it means children will be eligible for euthanasia.

Belgium has allowed euthanasia since 2002. One of the provisions in the law is that it only applies to those in "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated."

The removal of age restrictions does mean more safeguards, including that the child is judged able to understand what euthanasia means. Consent of parents or guardians must also be given as well as the approval of three doctors.

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Q: What's your take on this move by Belgium?

The LDS church views life as a sacred gift from God and, therefore, is opposed to euthanasia, defined as "deliberately putting to death a person who is suffering from an incurable condition or disease." Assisted suicide also is considered a violation of God's laws.

Belgian lawmakers' decision to remove age restrictions on its law permitting euthanasia is especially troubling for several reasons. A group of 160 pediatricians have signed a letter saying there is no demand for this change, and that medicine can alleviate the worst suffering.

Based on press coverage, it appears the strongest advocates are doctors or other adults who cited their own anguish watching children die. I credit them with good intentions, but I also wonder if one driving force behind their concerns is their own anguish at watching children suffer. Several have mentioned their own emotional pain in arguing for the law.

The only voice I found from those close to the age that the new law addresses was a teenage girl, recently turned 18, who was incapacitated by Huntington's disease. Barely able to speak, she whispered her view that euthanasia is "not good."

I don't view lightly the emotional strain of watching a loved one suffer. My father died slowly, and painfully, of cancer. It was his second battle with the disease and it lasted for nearly a year. To watch one of my children die in similar fashion would be immeasurably more difficult.

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