Many people would agree that adults should have the right to die – and some are even campaigning for it to be made a legal right in the UK – but should children have the right to die, too?
It looks as though they’ll be granted that right in Belgium today, where members of the Belgian parliament are expected to extend the country’s 12-year-old euthanasia law to include terminally ill children.
If the law is passed, Belgium will become the first country in the world to drop age restrictions on euthanasia.
It is already one of only three countries to have legalised euthanasia (the others are Luxemburg and the Netherlands). Records show that most adults opting for euthanasia in Belgium are over the age of 60 and have incurable cancer.
The new law would have tight conditions for children seeking the right to die, including that the child be in a ‘hopeless’ medical state of ‘constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased’ and that the child understands their request and has asked to die multiple times. There’s also a requirement for the child’s parents and doctors to approve.
“It is not about deciding whether a child is or is not to die,” says Daniel Baquelaine, a Belgian MP (and doctor) who’s backing the new law. “Death is coming quickly. It is therefore necessary to allow the child to express what he thinks of the end of life, about how to die.”
Opinion polls in Belgium show the majority of the Belgian public support this change in the law – although a group of 160 paediatricians have expressed their opposition, saying allowing children the right to die would create unbearable stress for their carers and relatives.
What do you think? Should terminally ill children be allowed to decide when they die? Or is that not a decision anyone under 12 should have to face?