Euthanasia’s Slippery Slope in the Netherlands

“The Dutch government will permit doctors to euthanize terminally ill children aged between one and 12 after months of debate within the ruling coalition. The country’s health minister, Hugo de Jonge, said a change in regulations was necessary to help ‘a small group of terminally ill children who agonize with no hope, and unbearable suffering’. Belgium became the first country to allow for voluntary child euthanasia in 2014 when it legislated to allow euthanasia in cases where the young patient was terminally ill and in great pain. Two Belgian children aged nine and 11 became the first to be euthanized in 2016 and 2017. Intervention to end a life is also already legal in the Netherlands for children older than 12 if consent is given by the patient and their parents. Babies up to a year old may also have their lives ended with parental consent. The group of children referenced by the planned regulation currently may only be given palliative care or have their nutrition withheld to speed up their death under the current rules with doctors facing prosecution if they take any other action to end a life. Since 2002 doctors have been able to euthanize adults in the Netherlands in cases where it is regarded as a voluntary and well considered request in the context of unbearable suffering from which there is no prospect of improvement, or alternative remedy. Last year there were 6,361 cases of euthanasia in the country–just over 4% of the country’s total deaths. Of those, 91% were for terminal medical conditions. The remainder of euthanasia cases involve severe psychiatric illness.”

“Dutch government backs euthanasia for under-12s,” The Guardian, Oct. 14, 2020