By Scott Fischbach, Executive Director, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO)
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights recently solicited input for a report regarding the rights of children with disabilities. MCCL GO provided a contribution that drew attention to the problems with child euthanasia.
The Netherlands permits the euthanasia of children as young as 12, and doctors there also practice the active euthanasia of sick and disabled infants, including those with disabilities such as spina bifida. Belgium removed any age limit for euthanasia in 2014. And earlier this year, Colombia passed a resolution expanding its euthanasia policy to children.
These developments raise a number of human rights concerns. Euthanasia violates the right to life, and child euthanasia is especially troubling. The immaturity of children inhibits their ability to make sound decisions and give proper consent.
The UN Human Rights Committee has in the past objected to the euthanasia policy in the Netherlands. “The Committee considers it difficult to reconcile a reasoned decision to terminate life with the evolving and maturing capacities of minors,” the Committee wrote. “In view of the irreversibility of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the Committee wishes to underline its conviction that minors are in particular need of protection.”
Child euthanasia threatens equality and nondiscrimination. Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) “reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.” More specifically, the CRPD calls on states to “ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.”
Child euthanasia also undermines the right to health. The Convention on the Rights of the Child protects “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” and states that “a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life.”
Children, especially disabled children, must be protected.