Euthanasia for special needs babies under one year and for children over 12 is already legal in the Netherlands. New legislation proposed to Parliament on Tuesday, according to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, would close the gap and allow doctors to end the lives of children with a terminal condition.
In a brief to Parliament, de Jonge maintained that euthanasia should now be possible for "a small group of terminally ill children who agonize with no hope and unbearable suffering."
"In response to the position of the NVK [the Dutch Pediatric Association], I want to ensure more legal safeguards for doctors who, on the basis of their professional standard, proceed with life-ending actions of children aged 1–12 years," said de Jonge.
The health minister contends that the proposal will affect between five and 10 children each year who suffer "as a result in some cases unnecessarily, for a long time, without any prospect of improvement."
According to a report from the medical teaching hospitals of Groningen, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, the majority of Dutch doctors believe that if a child is suffering, it is acceptable to end his or her life at the parents' request.
The report suggested that a new law to allow euthanasia for minors under the age of 12 is in order.
While children from age 12–15 in the Netherlands may already request euthanasia with the permission of parents or guardians, 16- and 17-year-olds do not need parental consent. They only need to inform their parents of their decision to die. Parents, then, have no recourse to save their child. This is the law.
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize the intentional killing of patients in hospitals.
Other European countries have followed suit, including Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Germany, meanwhile, allow physician-assisted suicide, or "passive" euthanasia.
Euthanasia intends to kill the patient at his or her request. The difference between active and passive euthanasia is that in active euthanasia the physician actively kills the patients, usually through an injection of a lethal drug dosage. Passive euthanasia intentionally kills the patient through purposeful neglect of ordinary means of care.
In recent years, 10 U.S. jurisdictions have legalized physician-assisted suicide: California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
The Catholic moral tradition holds that intentionally killing an innocent human being is absolutely forbidden. Doing so is murder, regardless of the circumstances.
Paragraph 2277 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls it "morally unacceptable," declaring that: "An act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering, constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator … [and] must always be forbidden and excluded."
The Church teaches that suffering has redemptive value and that euthanasia can short-circuit an opportunity for the suffering patient to attain salvation.