By Dave Andrusko
My apologies for not getting to this last week. Time got away from me.
We wrote a great deal about the all-but-finalized situation in Belgium where if King Philippe signs the measure—a mere formality–children of any age can be euthanized.
I realized over the weekend that I’d written that the die was cast not with last week’s approval in the Chamber of Representatives but rather last December when the Belgian Senate overwhelmingly approved the proposal to remove all age limits on euthanasia. But in a real sense that was not even remotely true.
This descent into darkness was a long time coming. Were it not, upwards of 70%+ wouldn’t be voicing support for the law.
That became clear as I read Reuters story about how shocked/surprised/annoyed “Belgian media” and various high mucky-mucks were by the outraged most of the world expressed. The self-congratulatory comments were incredibly revealing and indicative of a chasm that is as deep as it is wide.
Take two samples, the first from the German Daily Die Welt:
“Belgium has allowed the killing on demand of terminally ill children and has headed for the ethical abyss. A state which allows something like this is a failing state.”
Then there is the counterpoise from the Belgian daily De Morgen:
“For the first time since 1830 we have evolved to being ethically progressive leaders. We can be quite proud of that.”
Let’s back up. Why is Die Welt and countless others (including you and me) so appalled? You don’t kill children under the cover of rationalizations so flimsy they are not worthy of an adolescent explaining why he missed curfew.
But hold it, Belgian leaders retort. We’re only going to off a handful of kids who have a “terminal illness,” have agreed to their own deaths (a decision we can trust because a psychologist will assure us that the child has the “the capacity of discernment”), a decision their parents are supposed to give their consent to.
Never mind for a moment that almost 200 pediatricians signed an Open Letter to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives declaring that “The palliative care teams for children are perfectly capable of achieving pain relief, both in hospital and at home.” Proponents of the law simply ignore this expert testimony and if they were to engage it, they would insist they had found some case when the pain couldn’t be managed. One case, by the way, would be enough.
And besides (as the Reuters story notes), proponents tell themselves that “The law covering euthanasia of minors is different [than] the broader euthanasia law. Adults can opt for death by injection if they find their condition intolerable and pain too great. Cases have included deaf twin brothers about to go blind.”
There are two fatal flaws in this boilerplate, part of which is found in the following:
“Bart Sturtewagen, chief editor of De Standaard, one of the country’s largest daily newspapers, said that after 12 years of legal euthanasia in the country, Belgians had grown used to it as an option for the final stages of their lives.
“I’m annoyed at hearing ‘you’ll kill children’ in the foreign media. We don’t use that kind of language anymore. It’s a very different debate on a different level,” he said.
(They are so civilized. None of this “kill children” language for them.)
You can talk until the cows come home about how many “assisted deaths” in Belgium are done without explicit request and that it is proven that a massive number of assisted deaths in Belgium are not being reported–and that even proponents concede there are “abuses.”
It just doesn’t (a) register that euthanasia for adults is already out of control, or (b) that the history of “safeguards” is that they are not worth the paper they are written on. People “grow used” to euthanasia and are not worried that the promises they’d heard have long since been shown to be hollow. If they even remember them.
Does anyone believe for 5 minutes that the “rights” adults have secured won’t be extended to children? Read Alex Schadenberg’s column.
There you will find that Quebec has its own euthanasia proposal and even though it’s not law yet,
“[T]he province’s College of Physicians is already envisaging a day when some of the bill’s restrictions on euthanasia will need to be loosened.
“’This bill, as it is right now, it’s probably a landmark but surely not the end of the reflection,’ said Yves Robert, secretary of the College, which supports the bill. ‘It’s only a step. There are many questions that are still unanswered.’
“As Quebecers become accustomed to doctors administering lethal injections to dying patients, the questions will not be about who is receiving euthanasia but who is being denied it, Dr. Robert said.”
Read those words very, very carefully: “[T]he questions will not be about who is receiving euthanasia but who is being denied it.”
The other flaw in this don’t worry, be happy assurance is a kind of perverse example of Belgian pride. Anything the Netherlands can do vis a vis euthanasia, Belgium can do “better.” The Dutch “limit” euthanasia (for now at least) to those who are 12 and older.
Having eliminated all age requirments, the Belgian newspaper can boast that for the first time in a 180+ years, they’ve “evolved” into “being ethically progressive leaders.” When (as sure as the sun rises in the east) they decide that parental consent is an unnecessary pothole, or that children only need be close to having “the capacity of discernment,” they will congratulate themselves for having smoothed out the runway—still more evidence they have “evolved” even further.
I don’t think it is possible to exaggerate how fundamental a shift we have just witnessed, made, if possible, worse by the impenetrable smugness of the Belgians about their superiority which makes further legislation like this monstrosity inevitable.