In the Netherlands it has been announced that euthanasia for children under 12 suffering from incurable diseases will be possible. “This concerns children affected by a disease or condition so serious that death is inevitable. Aid-in-dying will be possible when it is the only reasonable alternative for a doctor to put an end to the desperate and unbearable suffering of the child,” said Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers. It is estimated that this Law will affect between 5 and 10 children a year. According to the Government, the regulation will be published this year.
Currently, euthanasia is already legal for those over the age of 12 who can consent, and for babies under one year of age with parental consent in this country.
In Belgium, euthanasia was legalized in 2002, and in 2014 it became the second country, after the Netherlands, to decriminalize this medical practice in minors, and the first to do so without an age limit. Since then, 24,000 people have died using this method, representing 2% of deaths each year. According to official sources, last year 8,700 people died from this cause.
For now, it is understood that certain requirements must be met in that country for a person to request euthanasia, which includes the physical and psychiatric conditions specified in the corresponding law. People must suffer constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering that cannot be controlled. When death is not expected in the short term, there is an additional application process that includes consulting a third doctor and establishing a one-month waiting period between the application and the act itself.
This new step of expanding the terms that make the extension of euthanasia possible, is part of the already proven “slippery slope“ that favors the relaxation of the initial requirements to procure death for patients who request it.The use of the concept of “unbearable pain or suffering” should be explained. Given the progress of the current methods used in palliative medicine with which refractory symptoms can be controlled in the vast majority of cases, the inconsistency of the theses that justify euthanasia as the only means of avoiding patient suffering is shown.
The implementation of quality palliative care, also in children, makes it possible to accompany incurable patients in their disease process, controlling refractory symptoms and providing clinical, psychological and spiritual assistance to help them cope with their illness.
The justification of euthanasia by disregarding palliative care as the preferred method of care for incurable patients, supposes not only an attack on the life and dignity of vulnerable patients who are denied the care they need. But also an immoral resource that, promoting the elimination of the sufferer, entails the abandonment of the responsibility of clinical and human care inherent to the practice of medicine.
Economic interests also underlie euthanasia trends, which must be denounced for being diametrically opposed to the principles of medical praxis, aimed at curing and caring, never eliminating.