Belgium has now legalized euthanasia for children. All that remains is for the king to sign the bill, as he is expected to do. Excerpt:
“The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die,” Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said at a prayer vigil last week.
Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.
Last week 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter against the law, claiming that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain.
But opinion polls have suggested broad support for the changes in Belgium, which is mostly Catholic.
Eugene Kontorovich notices something interesting about this. He reflects on the fact that many European governments lobbied hard against the death penalty being applied in the US to murderers who were as young as 16 at the time of their crime. Euros called it barbaric. The practice was outlawed in a 2005 SCOTUS case, Roper v. Simmons. Kontorovich writes:
Why can a 17 year-old rapist-murderer not face capital punishment? Because, as Justice Kennedy wrote in a 5-4 decision, science has shown that minors, even 17-year-olds, are too immature to truly understand the consequences of their decisions, or the meaning of life and death. Juveniles are prone to “impetuous and ill-considered actions” that they should not be made to lose their life for, even if the action involved taking the life of another.” Moreover, juveniles are susceptible to peer pressure, Kennedy wrote. (Of course, one of the concerns in allowing euthanasia is external pressure from doctors, parents and others.)
Yet now we see Belgium thinks kids are responsible enough; the Netherlands similarly allows euthanasia as young as 12. These countries may be the way of the future, as they have been in other areas of progressive mores. Roper misread their belief system. It is not one of paternalistic concern for youth. Rather, a system that permits the euthanasia of innocent 12 year-olds but not the punishment of guilty 17-year-olds is one that exalts autonomy without culpability.
So it comes out that the juveniles cannot really make accountable decisions when it comes to killing people, unless it is themselves. Or to put it differently, Belgium will not hold children responsible when they hurt others, but gives them free license to hurt themselves. Perversely, in Belgium, the youths who are considered grown up enough to be euthanized have not done anything wrong at all, unlike Simmons, who tied up his victim and thew him off a bridge.