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When Killing Children Is OK By Europeans

Belgium has now legalized euthanasia for children. [1] 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 [2]. 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.

72 Comments (Open | Close)

72 Comments To "When Killing Children Is OK By Europeans"

#1 Comment By ck On February 15, 2014 @ 9:26 am

“All hyperbole and passion aside, I have mixed feelings about this. I can easily picture a child dying of bone cancer, beyond any further treatment, experiencing excruciating pain every second of every minute of every hour of every day… pleading for relief… which, all other things being equal, would justify a bill like this.”

Compassion toward horses and farm animals is not the same as it is toward human beings.

#2 Comment By mm On February 15, 2014 @ 9:31 am

it is not just Belgium- the Dutch have made euthanasia “available” to children- even tho it is not technically legal-they even have protocols for it. It is also being pushed for the non-terminal as well, like being tired of life. Polls of Dutch MDs show some provide the service w/o consent. The potential for abuse is huge- the disabled can easily be seen as a burden & done away with

#3 Comment By Ned On February 15, 2014 @ 10:04 am

Goodness, everyone needs to take a few deep breaths here. The Belgium law has a parental consent requirement. Which is to say, under this law a child can “decide” to kill itself in exactly the sense that a murderer can “decide” to leave prison by asking for a pardon.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On February 15, 2014 @ 10:38 am

Re: I don’t support abortion or “killing defectives” even though I DO support legal unions that permit gay men and women to protect their relationships with those they care for.

Yes, this. Sex issues and life issues are different. And each issue needs to be considered on its own merits, not put into some kind of partisan box.

#5 Comment By O.L. Johnson On February 15, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

As the sad case of Marius showed in Denmark this week, the Culture of Death in Europe now even extends to the zoo animals.

#6 Comment By mm On February 15, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

the child dying of… arguement is garbage- you don’t euthanize someone in pain- you give them analgesics. As a physcian you don’t end their life you treat them. Now, granted the line between theraputic doses and life ending may be small- but that is true for other therapies as well. It is the intention that matters. Parental consent isn’t good enough-there are all sorts of crazy parents.

#7 Comment By KMT On February 15, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

“Slippery Slope Fallacy.” Oh yeah? How about “The Fallacy Fallacy”?

Slopes DO exist, and some are ice-coated. History has shown that once we dehumanize and demonize one group, we do it to other groups. Often, we do it in the guise of sentimental foolishness. See “AliceAn”‘s remarks for an example of this. Like “RB”, I wouldn’t let her near any sick child of mine. It’s scary to think that there are people who “work with” children in this situation. I’m sure they think they are being noble in wishing away the children’s suffering, but we have no business, at all, deciding that a child would be better off dead. What a load of sentimental tomfoolery, which is the opposite of real love. Down that road is where the deluded, pseudo-noble serial-killer nurses go.

Give palliative treatment, and quit bitching about the cost. There are far worse things that we as a society spend our collective funds on.

#8 Comment By Fictional Jimbo Whales On February 15, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

I don’t understand fully the difference between doping someone to the point where they are unconscious but alive and killing them, especially since the large amount of painkillers is probably also destroying their liver and kidneys.

I guess I don’t see the difference between having someone be sedated on morphine or heroin for months and them being dead. From the secular side, the person is not conscious and the person is being put into a state where recovery is impossible. From the religious side, it seems to only be a difference between killing slowly and killing quickly.

#9 Comment By Tiber On February 15, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

@KMT: I never said that slopes don’t exist. As I explained, it’s a fallacy when people use it as, “[bad thing] will lead to [other bad thing]” with no explanation, oftentimes by characterizing the proponents of [bad thing] as simply having no morals or just wanting to defeat their political opponents. Art Deco did soon after give a reason, even if I don’t think weak enforcement of a law is necessarily the same as approving of it.

How is it foolish to acknowledge that modern medicine has its limits? I could just as easily say that trying to prolong the life of a terminally ill person who wants to die is self-righteous foolishness. In theory (but possibly not in practice, as myself and others are concerned), it is not someone else deciding that a child would be better off dead; it’s the child himself deciding that, and the parents consenting.

Nobody here is arguing that caring for sick children is a drain on society. Please stop mischaracterizing the argument. There are already real concerns; you don’t need to create false ones. The question is, if you can’t save a person no matter what, and they have accepted the idea of death, who exactly are you serving by leaving them clinging to life: them or yourself?

#10 Comment By Public Defender On February 15, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

I think the slippery-slope potential for abuse outweighs the benefits of a law like this. But I would sympathize with a sixteen year-old cancer patient who has had enough and wants to stop treatment over a parent’s objection. “Dad, please let me go,” So I don’t think the law deserves the sneers it’s getting.

#11 Comment By seydlitz89 On February 15, 2014 @ 4:35 pm


sad . . .

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 15, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

we don’t have the right to take our own lives. certainly not because life is painful

Says who? If Rod’s priest told him that (which he probably would), Rod would take that as proper authority and obey. Rod has the right to do that. Hector apparently would too, and wouldn’t even wait for the priest to give orders. (Rod probably wouldn’t either on this subject). But who says that is binding on all?

I’ll take Mary Russell’s solution as first option any day. And I have grave reservations about ANYONE having jurisdiction to say, OK, give them a fatal dose. We all know its going to be misused.

But what if it doesn’t work? Analgesics aren’t perfect or universally effective.

At some point Jimbo Whales is right — doping the person up produces a slow death anyway. And he’s certainly right about the quality of commentary on this subject. It all boils down to “I believe God wants you to suffer, to get used to it.”

#13 Comment By KMT On February 15, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

“Nobody here is arguing that caring for sick children is a drain on society.”

I concede that nobody here is doing that. Yet, it has been done.

This is a dangerous law, enacted into existence by cowards who’ve convinced themselves that their fear is compassion. It’s not.

#14 Comment By mm On February 15, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

Fic Jimbo- I guess you don’t see the difference from falling off a ledge & being pushed either. It is clear that adequate pain relief might lead to death sooner than staying in abject misery without pain relief- but the intent of analgesia is not death. The difference however is clear to the care givers and family when the patient is properly cared for.

#15 Comment By Roland de Chanson On February 15, 2014 @ 8:52 pm



(Do no harm)

We’ve not only lost the languages of classical civilization, we’ve lost Hippocrates and millenia of medical ethics.

Perhaps, since we really don’t want to succomb to that hic et ubique fallacious “slippery slope” fallacy nonsense that is anathema to combox logicians with their progressivist agenda, we should begin clearing out the nursing homes, the ICU’s, the NICU’s ASAP. It’s not a descent down a slippery slope into hell; it is rather the next resplendent plateau in the continuing ascent of man; man, that measure of all things; man, that hyperion of satyrs; man, that most bestial of beasts.

This is what happens when the Europeans no longer have the coglioni to kill themselves off in internecine slaughter. They set upon the weakest members of their own tribes, babes in the womb, the sick, the crippled, the dying. It’s killing you can do with a lab coat and a syringe rather than a coat of mail and a mace.

The glory and honour may be less, but somebody has to play God now that the cathedrals are tourist traps waiting to be recycled as mosques.

Oh glorious Chartres, of what sublime phallacy are thy lofty minarets, that perpetually praise the non-triune God!

#16 Comment By mm On February 15, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

Fic Jimbo- BTW narcotics don’t kill your kidneys or liver-that is the non-narcotic analgesics that do that. High dose narcotics have little organ toxicity except for respiratory depression hence their use in complex cardiac anesthesia (consitpation being the other common problem).

#17 Comment By Fictional Jimbo Whales On February 16, 2014 @ 12:52 am

I understand that the intent of opioid use for the terminally ill isn’t death, but if they do bring about death faster, then they will. However, I just sort of assumed they would have general organ toxicity, which apparently they do not.

But I suppose the analogy I would use would be killing someone and putting them in a coma and waiting for them to die. Others in the comment section seem to suggest that high doses of opioids among the highly suffering, terminally ill only dull pain and don’t result in any of the psychological side effects usually associated with opioid use. If that is true, then it seems like using high doses of opioids should be the first go to. Can anyone answer why this is not currently the primary method of care? Why the terminally ill aren’t receiving heavy doses of opioids? I assume there must be some reason.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 16, 2014 @ 10:23 am

This is indeed a dangerous law, for roughly the same reasons absolute monarchy is dangerous (the reasons C.S. Lewis put forth so eloquently). Human beings cannot be trusted with such powers, and some truly awful abuse will occur.

I know that opiates can provide considerable pan relief in end-stage illness. When my younger brother was dying of an embryonal rabdomyosarcoma (only 13 people over the age of five are known to have survived one), he had a pump by which he could add more morphine to his system anytime he felt he needed it. He lived long enough to hold his new born baby niece, and showed no inclination to end it all. If act, till the end, he insisted he was going to beat the cancer and get well. That’s a good, healthy attitude to take until it is known not to be true, at which point, you aren’t the one who has to grieve.

BUT, a smigeon of concern for those who perhaps ARE enduring unendurable pain, who perhaps DON’T get adequate relief from any known analgesic, who just want to end it all, as a mortally wounded soldier writhing on the ground begs for the mercy of a final bullet, would be in order. Maybe we can’t do that. Maybe we can, but keep it tightly restricted. Maybe we formally say no but agree to look the other way for occasional exceptions when mercy requires it. Anyone remember the nurse at the end of Johnny Got His Gun? Who are we to say she was wrong? Who was she to presume she was right, even with the obvious indication of the patient’s wishes? (And of course, the story was fiction, so its not EVIDENCE of anything.)

Just admit this can be a very tough call, sometimes, and prone to horrific abuse, easily.

#19 Comment By mrscracker On February 16, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

I’ve cared for a dieing family member and pain relief is easily handled. Back in the day that wasn’t always the case and you can still encounter older Dr’s with concerns about narcotics turning terminal patients into addicts.

#20 Comment By Michael Guarino On February 16, 2014 @ 5:11 pm


I think the solution of formally saying no but looking the other way in clearcut cases is the best path. I suppose to make it procedurally secure, you would need some form of jury nullification if a case made it to court, but otherwise it makes a lot of sense.

My biggest concern with euthanization, especially when children are involved, is that you are placing the responsibility onto a third-party who has some degree of financial incentive to encourage the act. This can easily pervert our perception of whether or not death is the appropriate alternative in a given situation.

I think that a few things need to be present for this to be clearly justified: (1) the responsibility for the action is clearly on the person whose life is ended (responsibility not necessarily being equivalent to causal agent) (2) there is no ulterior motivation on any party in ending the life (like a financial one), and (3) there is compelling reason to end the life in the first place. Notice the soldier who is grievously and mortally wounded in battle asking a comrade to end it for him satisfies all three. He is asking, so it is his responsibility, and presumably he is of age to understand what that means (also a soldier in wartime will have had enough exposure to death to understand its finality). His comrade has no reason to want his friend dead. And his extreme pain makes death a genuine alternative to continued suffering. That is the model I take with the case of euthanasia. I think it is certainly applicable outside of wartime, but not within the medical-industrial complex. Making it formally illegal but legal de facto should help remove the financial blocks on satisfying second condition.

But I can also respect someone who says that life, no matter how painful, should be protected. I don’t know if I can agree at the moment, due to the tradeoff between principle and cruelty in extreme cases.

#21 Comment By Steve Gerrard On February 17, 2014 @ 1:08 am

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 17, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

I suggest that the last three posts provide a sound basis for an acceptable public policy. Yes, I know, there are some sharp differences there. We should accommodate all of them, and find a way to codify that. Or stop trying.