(NaturalNews) The European nation of Belgium wants to expand its existing euthanasia laws to include children, according to new reports. In a landslide vote of 50 - 17, the Belgian Senate recently passed a measure that would allow minors to request their own deaths by doctors, with the only requirement being that such children "possess the capacity of discernment," an entirely subjective criterion that many say is a recipe for abuse.
LifeNews.com reports that, under the new law, children of any age would be permitted to opt for euthanasia, as would adults with dementia, so long as each of these is able to demonstrate the capacity to make this choice cognitively and rationally. Backed by 16 leading Belgian pediatricians, the highly controversial measure is the first of its kind to essentially legalize the murder of children.
"Currently the Belgian euthanasia law limits euthanasia to people who are at least 18 years old," says Alex Schadenberg from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), a group opposed to legalized euthanasia. "This unprecedented bill would extend euthanasia to children with disabilities."
Major religious and human rights groups opposed to the measure have already made their voices heard, with representatives of the Catholic, Protestant, Christian Orthodox and Muslim faiths publishing a joint declaration opposing it. Germany's Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that many are decrying the proposed law as morally and ethically reprehensible and are calling for its ultimate rejection.
"A child cannot buy a house in Belgium. A child cannot buy alcohol in Belgium. And this law would allow a child to ask to be killed," stated Carine Brochier of the European Institute of Bioethics in Brussels, to DW. "That is a real problem."
Existing euthanasia laws in Belgium already provide illicit cover for medical errors
Besides the moral and ethical implications of allowing child euthanasia, many are concerned about Belgium's existing euthanasia laws. According to EPC and others, the list of excuses being used to legitimize euthanasia continues to grow by leaps and bounds, extending far beyond what the law permits.
"The Belgian Socialist government is adamant that the euthanasia law needs to extend to minors and people with dementia even though there [are] significant examples of how the current law is being abused and the bracket creep of acceptable reasons for euthanasia continues to grow," adds Schadenberg. "The current practice of euthanasia in Belgium appears to have become an easy way to cover-up medical errors."
The latest available figures gathered by EPC reveal that a shocking 47 percent of all assisted deaths currently taking place in Belgium are not even being reported in accordance with the law. Another 32 percent of assisted deaths are taking place without the explicit request of the patient, which for all intents and purposes is nothing more than murder. Beyond this, euthanasia rates are rising much more quickly than many say they should, having jumped 25 percent just in 2012.
"They are already euthanizing people who are depressed or tired of life because they have taken the interpretations of saying physical and/or psychological suffering," explains Dr. Paul Saba from Physicians for Social Justice. "What this teaches us is that despite the government's assurances that they will set very strict criteria, that won't work."