The Netherlands has agreed on plans to make euthanasia legal for terminally ill children under the age of 12.
In a letter to parliament, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said a government-commissioned investigation by medical experts had found that terminally-ill minors were suffering “unbearably.”
“The study shows that there is a need for active termination of life among doctors and parents of incurably ill children, who are suffering hopelessly and unbearably and will die within the foreseeable future,” the letter said.
Child euthanasia is currently only legal in the Netherlands for minors between the ages of 12 and 16, and newborns, with their parents’ consent. From 16 onwards, only the patient’s consent is required.
Now, if a child between one and 12 is suffering, parents and doctors can choose palliative sedation or renounce medical treatment. But even with these options, the child could take days or even weeks to die.
De Jonge predicts the move will affect between five and ten children per year.
The Netherlands’ euthanasia laws have been widely criticized and drawn controversy for over a decade.
Lila Rose with the pro-life group Live Action responded to the news calling it “unbelievably evil” in a Twitter post.
Another proposal earlier this year aimed to allow assisted suicide for healthy individuals over the age of 75.
The Catholic News Agency reports Dr. Gordon MacDonald, head of the UK-based alliance Care Not Killing, called the proposal “deeply troubling.”
“To now consider extending the euthanasia law to people who are just tired of life, and may well be depressed, is highly irresponsible, immoral and dangerous,” Dr. MacDonald said in a statement.
Earlier this year, a doctor in the Netherlands was cleared of murder
after euthanizing a woman with advanced Alzheimer’s who repeatedly said that she did not want to die.
Last month, the Vatican released a document called “The Good Samaritan” by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to call out various aspects surrounding euthanasia and end-of-life care.
“When euthanasia is accepted by some, it sends a message to others in a similar situation that their lives may no longer be valuable because of their condition. Life is always an aspect of human well-being and there is no ‘life unworthy of life’. There are other aspects of human well-being that need devoted attention, and in healthcare and especially palliative care, we need an integrated approach so that physical, emotional and spiritual needs can be scrupulously addressed. This is what the document calls for. Terminating lives, however, can never respect the dignity of patients and is the very reverse of healthcare,” Helen Watt, the Anscombe Centre’s senior research fellow, told the Catholic newssite Crux.
The Netherlands and neighboring Belgium became the first countries in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002.