THE HAGUE (ChurchMilitant.com) - Dutch doctors and government officials are pushing for child euthanasia.
In late April, Dutch health minister Edith Schippers procured nearly 400,000 euros to conduct research into expanding the age of eligibility for child euthanasia, a move supported by both the Dutch Pediatric Association (NVK) and a majority with the Netherlands House of Representatives. Current law permits children over the age of 12 to qualify for assisted suicide, in addition to those under the age of one with the consent of the child's parents and the standards of the Groningen Protocol, a 2004 document outlining the criteria for "active ending of life on infants," being met.
The new study is slated to investigate whether or not the age range can be expanded to include children between the ages of one and 12, as current law permits euthanasia within this age group but only in an extreme "state of emergency." The NVK is pushing for "real mental competence" to be dissociated with chronological age, describing it as an arbitrary criterion and arguing that children 12 years and younger, despite any illness, can be logical. The removal of the standard would allow children under the age of 12, if expected to die within the "foreseeable future," to be allowed to make a formal request for a "mercy killing" via their parents.
Critics of the propositions are citing the influence emotions will play in parents who wish to end the suffering of their children to misread "verbal and nonverbal expressions" of "hopeless and unendurable suffering," which currently remains the highest criteria in child assisted suicide in the Netherlands. These expressions, according to Dr. Miriam Vos of the Dutch Association of Educationalists, can too easily be misinterpreted by the child's "doctor, parents and other health care workers."
"Children younger than 12 rarely or never speak in terms of hopeless and unbearable suffering," she maintains.
A Dutch Christian organization additionally argues that "the suffering of the parents should not be a justification for a request for termination of life of the child."
"A society that does not protect its children loses its dignity," a statement from the group reads. "Let us commit to good palliative care and guidance to children — and their parents — in the last phase of life."
According to Dutch medical records, between 2002 and 2012 there were five approved requests for euthanasia from children, four of them between 16 and 17 years old and one aged 12.
Belgium, which approved adult euthanasia in 2002, became the first country in the world in 2014 to lift the age restriction for the practice; the law declares children must be terminally ill, must be enduring "unbearable physical suffering," and need to make repeated requests to die to be considered eligible for assisted suicide. The move met with much backlash, including condemnation from the Catholic Church in Belgium.
"The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues," noted Brussels archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, "but suddenly they've become able to decide that someone should make them die."
Euthanasia has been strongly condemned by Rome, with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith describing the practice as a "violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person" and a "crime against life and an attack on humanity." In his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," Pope St. John Paul II spoke of assisted suicide as a "grave violation of the law of God," asserting a request to end one's own life arises "from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation" and is at its core a request for "companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial."