Mercy killing for kids?
Death | The Dutch government proposes the decriminalization of child euthanasia
by Leah Hickman
Posted 10/19/20, 04:16 pm
Doctors in the Netherlands could perform euthanasia on terminally ill children ages 12 and younger without facing legal consequences under a policy the country’s health minister proposed last week.
Dutch law allows medical providers to euthanize patients 12 and older with the permission of the child and the parents. A legal loophole also allows doctors to evade legal repercussions for euthanizing babies younger than 1 with parental consent. Medical providers may withhold nutrition from children with terminal conditions, but doctors who perform euthanasia on 1- to 12-year-olds can face prosecution.
Advocates say the new policy will remove the existing “gray area” between infancy and the teen years. In a letter to parliament, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge cited a recent study that “a need for active termination of life among doctors and parents of incurably ill children who are suffering hopelessly and unbearably and will die within the foreseeable future.”
However, even some Dutch doctors who support euthanasia predict more negative consequences from expanding legal protections for the procedure. “Those who embark on euthanasia venture down a slippery slope along which you irrevocably slide down to the random killing of defenseless sick people,” euthanasia doctor Bert Keizer wrote this summer in the Dutch Medical Association Journal. “Every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back.”
In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill adults. Belgium allowed euthanasia of children for the first time in 2014, approving legislation to let young children undergo assisted suicide if they were terminally ill and in severe pain.
Opponents point to Belgium and the Netherlands as examples of the slippery slope that results from passing even limited euthanasia laws. This past weekend, New Zealand voted on a referendum that would legalize assisted suicide in the country. The government will announce the results at the end of the month.
“As New Zealanders head to the voting booths, we must consider what has happened overseas in countries that have legalized euthanasia,” said Henoch Kloosterboer, campaign manager for the Safer Future Charitable Trust, which opposed the change. “This is not a theoretical ‘slippery slope’ argument, it is already happening.”
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