In response to Belgian lawmakers yesterday passing a law extending euthanasia to children, a petition has been drawn up to persuade King Philippe not to sign the bill into law.
The petition can be found here on the website Citizen Go. Organisers hope to obtain at least 50,000 signatures; by midday Feb. 14 it had already received nearly half that number.
In theory, the King can refuse his signature, but this is very uncommon and could stir up heated debates, says Gudrun Kugler, the petition’s chief organiser. But she argues that this puts King Philippe “in a position to make the strongest possible case for the dignity of every human person.”
“His uncle, King Baudouin, had heroically not consented to a liberalisation of abortion in 1990,” she recalls.
Belgium’s new law allows doctors to kill children “under the age of 18” who are terminally ill and suffer from severe pain without any prospect of relief. The decision to kill a child must be approved by the parents and the physicians in care. It is further necessary that the young patient is aware of the situation and understands what euthanasia means.
“One can only imagine what this means to a young child who sees their parents in despair over his or her suffering,” says Kugler. “This law is unique and it serves as a signal to other leaders throughout Europe that it is permissible to introduce such laws in their countries.”
She adds: “There are also frightening reports of lax or unregulated use of euthanasia not only in Holland, but to an increasing extent also in Belgium.”
Belgian paediatricians said that the law is not medically necessary as “palliative care teams for children are perfectly capable of achieving pain relief, both in hospital and at home”.
Last month, members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe signed a declaration saying that this law “betrays some of the most vulnerable children in Belgium” and “promotes the unacceptable belief that a life can be unworthy of life which challenges the very basis of civilised society”.