Euthanasia is a hotly contested topic, as it should be. The decision to assist a person in dying because he or she is suffering greatly from an illness is not a matter that should be taken lightly. But now we've thrown an additional question into the mix: should seriously ill children be allowed to have a say in whether they live or die? There's no way, as a parent, you won't feel something just thinking about that possibility.
This week, Belgium became the first country to remove age restrictions on euthanasia, which has caused folks from both sides of the debate to come out and speak their minds. Those in favor of it argue that children who experience incomprehensible pain deserve the same respect adults receive to choose whether they want to put an end to their suffering. But plenty of people oppose the practice and feel it's immoral or inhumane to help a child end his life.
Under the new law, children who are suffering from diseases will have the right to be considered for euthanasia as long as they can prove they understand their decision. Doctors and psychologists will then discuss and debate their request and the child's parents have the ultimate say in whether it will happen. It sounds like an option that will only be used in very rare cases, though it isn't clear how doctors will determine whether a child is in a position to think lucidly about life and death -- which is one major issue critics have with this law.
As a mom, I can see both sides of this debate -- to a certain extent. If I had to watch my daughter suffer in bed day after day -- if she was unable to swallow or was in constant pain and had been told she'd never live a life free from pain -- I would want to do everything I could to make her comfortable. But what if there was little I could do? What if pain medication only worked so well or worked but stole her ability to function in other vital ways? I can't say for sure I wouldn't rather see her in peace.
With that said, I can't wrap my mind around allowing a child -- whose brain is not fully formed and who thinks mainly in the moment -- to make such a mammoth, FINAL, irreversible decision about his or her life. I don't think I could ever sign off on euthanasia and not think, constantly, What if doctors discover a cure for this disease? What if a new medication comes out in 10 years that gives my baby back her life?
How do you feel about lifting age restrictions on euthanasia?
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