Friday, March 21, 2014


D. O Connell

Recently Belgium’s King Philippe  signed into law a controversial bill that will allow for chronically ill children to be euthanized. The bill, while widely opposed by religious groups throughout Europe, has 75 % support among the Belgique public. The Belgian Catholic Church opposes the law, earlier describing it as a “step too far.”

The legislation, which grants children the right to request euthanasia if they are “in great pain” and there is no available treatment, makes Belgium the first country in the world where the age of the child is not taken into consideration. Similar legislation exists in the Netherlands, though only for children over the age of 12. In both countries, children are required to receive the consent of parents, doctors and psychiatrists.

Belgium became the second country in the world after its neighbor, The Netherlands, to legalize euthanasia following the 2002 Belgium Act on Euthanasia.

Legal euthanasia in Belgium began in 2002 for suffering patients of at least 18 years of age who are mentally sound and give their consent. In December 2013, the country recorded its first case of euthanasia for individuals who were not suffering from a terminal illness, but were going blind.

After all, this latest piece of legislation is not only about the morality of euthanasia per se. It also concerns the ethical, mental and spiritual capacity of children to make life and death decisions. If a 10-year-old with cancer repeatedly says “Mum, Dad, I want to die” is she mentally and morally equipped to understand what she is consenting to?

As a child psychologist, I know that the majority of teenagers and certainly most children under the age of 12 are too immature to grasp the implications of such a momentous and final decision as "plotting" their own demise. Also in many cases for those who are terminally ill, their ability to reason and weigh all the consequences of such a decision, may be affected by medication,  metastasis of the brain or a lack of oxygen, and also the emotional state of their parents and family.

Madeleine Teahan (Associate Editor at the Catholic Herald in London) writes: The introduction of this law is horrifying because it illustrates that Belgium’s chilly detachment from the sick and dependent is widening. But it represents something else: through the Belgian parliament’s stated desire to abolish suffering at all costs they have effectively eradicated something else: society’s recognition of a right to a childhood. This should horrify us all.

David O Connell
I feel we are returning to past history where we are reminded of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents as well as Nazism. Nazi Germany conducted a program in which the elderly, retarded, sick, and disabled were ordered killed. By the end of WWII, those designated as juvenile delinquents were also murdered under the law. About 275,000 "innocent" people were killed. The program, known as the T4 program, became the template for the mass murder of the Jews during the Holocaust. Ironically, even by Nazi standards, it was considered controversial at the time and was often resisted forcing the Nazis to conduct many of the killings in secret.

As we come closer to Holy Week, let us pray for the (supposed) Catholic King of a (supposedly) Catholic country and for all who are too timid, too ignorant, or too uncaring of life to speak out!.

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