Belgium has been making headlines recently for its law allowing adults to choose legal euthanasia to end their suffering. Recently, a Belgian man whose sex reassignment surgery went wrong decided to euthanize himself. But now the country is considering allowing children under 18 opt for euthanasia -- with parental permission, of course. This is predictably controversial. For one, can young children really make that kind of decision? Do they understand the permanence of death? How would they even communicate this? The child and parent who may have to decide this -- wow, the difficulty. It just boggles the mind.
Experts say that euthanasia for kids would be a last resort -- something only done with much consideration, when there is simply no hope for a child who is dying and suffering. Euthanasia, they believe, is humane and compassionate. Additionally, this would be very rare; only 10 to 100 cases might qualify in any given year.
But others say that there's just no way to know if a child really wants to die. And you have to wonder about kids who might want to opt out of life for reasons that have little to do with a terminal illness. I mean, look at all of the teens and even younger kids who commit suicide over bullying.
While the euthanasia law was primarily meant for terminally ill and badly suffering adults, it has inevitably moved into the gray areas of adults who just no longer wish to live. Besides the man whose sex reassignment surgery went wrong, there is also the deaf twins who chose euthanasia rather than go blind.
But you can't help but wish that, as a parent, there was a better way for a child to die rather than a long, slow, horrible death due to some disease. Unfortunately, children do die slow, painful deaths due to cancer and other illnesses.
Parents who want their children to die peacefully and without pain should have that option -- and the children should too. But could this law be misused? Of course it could. Everything can be misused. Parents, even here in the U.S., are often given other alternatives too, like "palliative sedation," in which a child is given painkillers or morphine and life support is withdrawn.
This is a very tricky and complicated subject. I just know that most parents would not want their kids to suffer.
Do you think euthanasia for kids should be legal?
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