Which is more age-appropriate: juice boxes or euthanasia?

Lawmakers in the lower house of Belgium approved a bill that will legalize euthanasia for children in extreme medical cases. This decision is sure to be the start of a slippery ethic slope in the country.

A previous adult version of the bill passed in 2002. Originally, euthanasia was only to be applied in conditions where the patient was suffering from unbearable pain and was terminal. Now, though, it is being used as an escape from unfavorable life conditions.

In one case, two deaf twin brothers began to develop blindness. Living independently and freely, the two became distraught over the idea of being dependent on an institution. The brothers determined that they had “nothing to live for” and were euthanized.

 

 

In another instance, a mentally ill woman, who suffered from depression, opted for euthanasia as a way out of the immeasurable pain and discomfort she felt from daily life. She did so without alerting any family members of her decision.

These events raise a few questions. At what point is your life no longer worth living? And, more importantly, at what age, if any, can you decide that it’s time to die?

We spend innumerable hours making sure people are not committing suicide. When someone does, it’s a tragedy that could have been avoided. What makes it any better when it’s conducted behind hospital doors — much less on children?

The bill states that children will only be allowed to be euthanized in cases of unbearable suffering and if they display that they fully understand what the outcome of the procedure will be. Basically, if they show that they can grasp that their death means they will cease to exist, they qualify for the procedure. Additionally, their parents must offer consent.

It’s questionable that children will be able to grasp the repercussion of their decision. Although terminal illness may instill maturity in children, death is something that human beings in general struggle to understand and accept. Asking children to make a decision this large is unwarranted, and many may choose to die just to avoid being a burden and continuing to see their families suffer indirectly from the illness killing the child.

For parents, it must be hellish to watch their child suffering. In order to end their pain, they may decide for their child that their life isn’t worth dragging on any longer. Although it seems noble enough, convincing their child that euthanasia is what is best for them overall is essentially murdering them, because they cannot handle seeing the pain themselves.

By advertising euthanasia as a humane way to end immeasurable suffering the Belgian government has romanticized assisted suicide.

Saying that someone has nothing to live for simply because they are dying from an illness they cannot control is absurd and unfair. Many people can still make a difference in their own lives and others, even on on their death bed, and no matter their age or size.

Asking terminally ill children to make a decision to end their own lives because a doctor or parent determines that there is no reason for them to continue living is unfair and undermines the idea of letting a child be just that — a child.

Reach the columnist at mjrodr11@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @mikayrodr