Dear members and friends,
Today Belgium rejected the right to life of those who are most in need of protection – children. The Belgian House of Representatives voted to legalise euthanasia for minors, with 86 votes in favour and 44 against, in addition to 12 abstentions. Given the Belgian Senate vote in favour of legalisation on 12 December, the bill will now go to King Philippe, who is expected to sign it.
Belgium is a pioneer when it comes to euthanasia, having legalised the practice for adults in 2002 and remaining one of the few countries where euthanasia is allowed. With the abolition of age restrictions for euthanasia, the law has become even more radical – Belgium will be the only country with legal euthanasia for children of any age. “Safeguards” for children include requirements of parental approval and involvement of psychologists and psychiatrists, yet it is difficult to imagine a 5-year-old, 10-year-old, or even a 15-year-old who has the capacity to “choose” to die.
Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights states, “No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally.” The World Youth Alliance concurs, recognising that every human being has intrinsic and inalienable dignity from conception to natural death. We recognise the intentional taking of a human life as a violation of the intrinsic dignity of that person and assert that euthanasia should never be legal or tolerated. Terminally ill children in particular should not be permitted to believe that their lives may not be worth living. No child should face the burden of making this decision.
Leading up to the vote, WYA Europe worked alongside Belgian civil society to raise awareness and combat the bill. We applaud the efforts of our friends. This week, an open letter from 160 Belgian pediatricians highlighted that modern medicine can manage the pain of terminally ill children and that it is impossible to determine whether a child can discern that euthanasia is an appropriate choice. Yesterday, the International Children’s Palliative Care Network declared, “We believe that euthanasia is not part of children’s palliative care and is not an alternative to palliative care,” calling on the Belgian government to “reconsider” their vote. And as WYA reported last month, a significant number of members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe issued a statement denouncing the expansion of euthanasia in Belgium to children.
WYA Europe is committed to protecting the lives of all people and thus will not stop until this law is turned back. We will also work to make sure that euthanasia – whether for children or for adults – does not spread to other European countries.
Director, World Youth Alliance Europe