Belgian media expressed rank incomprehension over foreign criticism of the country’s extension of euthanasia to children, portraying legislation as humane and dismissing any notion of sick children being pressed to their deaths.
Thursday’s vote, the first to extend such provisions to children without any age limit, passed as easily as 2002 legislation allowing euthanasia for adults that had backing from 75 percent of Belgians. It created only minor ripples of dissent in the country, but a wave of interest and fury abroad.
“Belgium has allowed the killing on demand of terminally ill children and has headed for the ethical abyss. A state which allows something like this is a failing state,” the conservative German daily Die Welt said in a column.
The law covering euthanasia of minors is different to the broader euthanasia law. Adults can opt for death by injection if they find their condition intolerable and pain too great. Cases have included deaf twin brothers about to go blind.
Children must also be shown to be terminally ill. The child makes the decision, with parental consent.
In allowing euthanasia for a child of any age, Belgium will move even beyond the neighboring Netherlands, known for its liberal attitude to a range of social issues, but where a minimum age of 12 is set.
“For the first time since 1830 we have evolved to being ethically progressive leaders. We can be quite proud of that,” Belgian daily De Morgen said.
Some conservative U.S. commentators were particularly forthright in their criticism.