Belgia’s authorities allowed the act of euthanasia to two terminally ill patients aged nine and eleven years old, Washington Post said.
The nine-year-old who had a brain tumour and the 11-year-old was suffering from cystic fibrosis, were the first children under 12 to be euthanised anywhere. The “unbearable suffering” made them choose to die, a member of the CFCEE (La Commission fédérale de Contrôle et d’Évaluation de l’Euthanasie) told. Belgium amended its euthanasia law in 2014 to make it legal for doctors to terminate the life of a child, however young, who makes the request.
According to the Belgian law, the doctors must first ensure that a child is “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term”. Additionally, the juvenile must make their wish known in writing, before being examined by child psychiatrists to ensure they are intelligent enough to make the decision and are “not influenced by a third party”. However, parents can overrule the child’s wishes.
After a lethal injection when euthanasia has occurred formally, a CFCEE examines the case to review if everything was done correctly. However, Belgium’s bishops called the law “a step too far”, while a group of 162 Belgian paediatricians wrote:
“We are today able to perfectly control physical pain, choking or anxiety at the approach of death.”
Despite the controversy, there is widespread backing for Belgium’s euthanasia legislation, showed the results of the recent polls in the country.
Wim Distelmans, head of the Belgian euthanasia commission countered:
“Thankfully, there are very few children who fit the criteria, but that doesn’t mean that we should refuse (them) the right to die with dignity.”