Arina Grossu is Director, Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in the National Catholic Register on March 21, 2014.
On March 3, King Philippe of Belgium signed into law a euthanasia bill passed by lawmakers on Feb. 13. This law exposes Belgian children under the age of 18 to the possibility of being euthanized, making Belgium the first country in the world to expose children of any age to such a risk.
It is naïve to think that this law won't be abused. Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition noted that 32% of the assisted deaths are done without request, and 47% of the assisted deaths go unreported in the Flanders region of Belgium. The 2012 euthanasia statistics also show that there was a 25% increase in the number of assisted deaths in Belgium.
Medicine that inflicts death is no medicine at all. Even in the fifth century B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates knew what medicine was and was not. His oath states: "I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick, according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice. I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect."
We should never adopt the euphemistic "right-to-die" or "right-to-choice" language and thereby reduce the inherent value of every human life to a subjective "quality of life" test. Let's be clear: No one has a right to commit suicide. Throwing self-preservation to the wind is the antithesis of the natural law written upon human hearts. To commit suicide is to say: "It is better that I do not exist." To be complicit in someone else's suicide is to agree that it is better that this person does not exist. Both are lies. Even Darwin understood that self-preservation is as instinctive as eating and sleeping.
Euthanasia is the justification of murder for some apparent good. However, the end (eliminating suffering) cannot justify the means (intentional taking of human life). Killing an innocent person, even with his or her permission, is still murder. Murder should never be deemed morally permissible in a civil society, a truth that is witnessed to by the myriad of laws and punishments against it. Every human life is sacred. Every human life matters.
In light of the new Belgium euthanasia law, the American College of Pediatricians released a searing statement on Feb. 20: "The killing of infants and children can never be endorsed by the American College of Pediatricians and should never be endorsed by any other ethical medical or social entity."
Additionally, this new law poses a perplexing paradox: Children in Belgium cannot legally drive a car until 18 years of age, yet they are deemed fit to decide to take their own lives. If children are not deemed capable of exercising the level of judgment necessary to operate a vehicle until after 18 years of age, then how can they be deemed capable of exercising the level of judgment necessary to decide such an incredibly profound question as whether or not to end their very lives? And what of infants and toddlers, who have not even reached the age of reason? This euthanasia law gives adults inordinate power to make life-or-death decisions over vulnerable children.
Linda van Roy lives in Schilde, Belgium. Her 10-month-old daughter, Ella-Louise, had Krabbe disease, a terminal and degenerative disorder that affected her nervous system. Her mother opted for palliative sedation, where food and liquid were withheld, and little Ella-Louise passed away. This happened even before child euthanasia was legally allowed in Belgium. In a previous CNN article, her mother admitted: "In that period, they tell you it's best not to give any fluids, because babies survive on little drops of liquid. So we stopped feeding her. In the end, it was bones and skin and no more baby left."
How is such cruelty not infanticide? Food and water are not "extraordinary measures." How have we reached the point in our society where murder can be passed off as "care"? We are a society that is increasingly ignorant and terrified of suffering, a condition that is part and parcel of being human.
Instead of attempting to eliminate the suffering, we are increasingly deciding to eliminate the person. This is a recipe for disaster and tragedy. We must return to the wisdom of Hippocrates, who understood the value of all human life and operated from a "do no harm" principle. The lives of the most vulnerable in our society - the sick, the elderly and, now, children - are at stake.