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A new law, a new low: Adolescent in Belgium euthanized

GUNDAM_Ai - Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 09/20/16

"Triumph for nihilism," says bioethicist

The euthanasia in Belgium of a terminally ill 17-year-old is a “triumph for nihilism,” commented a European bioethicist.

A Belgian official confirmed for Agence France Presse over the weekend that for the first time a minor was euthanized.

“The euthanasia has taken place,” Jacqueline Herremans, a member of Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission, said, adding that the euthanasia had been carried out according to Belgian law.

Belgium, which legalized assisted suicide in 2002, lifted age restrictions on euthanasia in 2014, permitting it for children “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term.”

Any request for euthanasia must be made by the minor, who must be conscious and capable of making rational decisions; be studied by a team of doctors and an independent psychiatrist or psychologist, and have parental consent.

Wim Distelmans, head of the euthanasia commission, said the 17-year-old, who had a terminal illness, was killed through “palliative sedation.”

“Fortunately, there are very few children who are considered (for euthanasia) but that does not mean we should refuse them the right to a dignified death,” Distelmans told the newspaper.

But the subject of euthanasia is apparently becoming more mainstream. According to AFP, Belgian Paralympian Marieke Vervoort said in Rio de Janeiro that she is considering euthanasia to escape a life of unbearable physical pain.

Vervoort, who won silver in the 400m wheelchair race at the Paralympic Games, played down earlier reports that she planned to be euthanized after her return from Brazil. “I have my (euthanasia) papers in my hand, but I’m still enjoying every little moment. When the moment comes when I have more bad days than good days, then I have my euthanasia papers, but the time is not there yet,” she told a news conference in Rio….

Netherlands also allows mercy killings for children, but only for those aged over 12. Luxembourg approved euthanasia but for adults only in 2009.

The latest development is a “triumph for out-and-out nihilism,” commented Michael Cook, editor of BioEdge.

“Although we do not have the full details of this case, killing is never the answer to physical suffering” said Paul Tully, general secretary of the British Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. “Euthanasia is contrary to the ethos of medicine, which is to care, not to kill, and it is very worrying that ‘palliative sedation’ not good palliative care, was seen as the solution in this case. We are deeply saddened that a young person’s life was ended in this way.”

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