BRUSSELS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A 17-year-old is the first minor to be legally killed by assisted suicide in Belgium.
The name and date of the minor's death are not being released, but noted euthanasia advocate Dr. Wim Distelmans confirms the death occurred between September 11 and 17 in the northern Dutch region of Flanders.
Euthanasia as well as physician-assisted suicide have been legal in Belgium since 2002, with euthanasia for children legal since 2014. Although the law imposes no age limit, it requires that the illness be terminal and that the child be in great pain, with no available treatment to lessen his "distress." Furthermore, the child's doctors and parents, as well as the child himself, must approve and give consent. A psychologist must also determine the patient is mature enough to make the decision.
In January, newly appointed Belgian archbishop Jozef de Kesel objected, saying that so-called mercy killing will not be allowed in Catholic hospitals in his diocese. He came under fire from critics, who charged that Catholic hospitals had been allowing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for years.
"All major so-called 'Catholic' care facilities and hospitals in Flanders have held in recent years guidelines and agreements that allow euthanasia," they claimed, "either at their own institution or after referral."
Liberal Belgian parliament member Jean-Jacques De Gucht commented, "The life of Catholic institutions and subsidies must follow the law."
The Netherlands was the first to pass so-called assisted dying laws in 2002, despite opposition from the Belgian Catholic Church and the Calvinist Protestant Church. Originally promoted as a last resort, the number of people choosing physician-assisted suicide has been steadily increasing from just approximately 1,900 in 2006 to more than 5,000 in 2013.
According to the Royal Dutch Medical Association, more than 650 babies are euthanized every year because they are assumed to be in pain or have the possibility of "facing a life of suffering."
Dutch ethicist Dr. Theo Boer initially promoted the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in 2001. More than a decade later, in 2014, he revealed, "I used to be a supporter of legislation. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a different view," admitting "we were wrong — terribly wrong, in fact."
He noted that since 2008, the number of suicides has been increasing by 15 percent every year, adding that the Dutch people no longer see euthanasia and suicide as an option but a right.
ChurchMilitant.com reported earlier that Catholic hospitals in both the United States and Canada have been routinely euthanizing patients for years.
Although many sources use the words "euthanasia" and "physician-assisted suicide" interchangeably, they are not the same. Physician-assisted suicide is practiced with the consent of the patient, while euthanasia is practiced on people who are not able to consent, like babies, young children, the mentally handicapped and the elderly.