Euthanasia in Belgium
How Canada has dealt and will deal with this decisive topic.
Article: Ravinesh Sakaran – Contributor
[dropcaps round=”no”]O[/dropcaps]n Feb. 13, while individuals across the whole world were preparing to profess their undying love to one another on Valentine’s Day, the ultra liberal state of Belgium decided to declare its love in a different form, the compassion to let go.
Belgian lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a measure that would allow euthanasia for incurably ill children enduring unbearable pain. Out of 152 parliamentarians, 86 voted for the change, 44 against and 12 abstained.
King Philippe is expected to sign this measure into law making a historic first for a country to lift all age restrictions on legal, medical induced deaths. The measure is an amended version of the 2002 law that allowed euthanasia for adults.
Under the measure, euthanasia would be legal for terminally ill children experiencing “constant and unendurable suffering” and can show a “capacity of discernment,” meaning they can demonstrate they understand the consequences of such a choice. This new legislation also requires the written consent of a parent for euthanasia.
Philippe Mahoux, a Socialist Party senator who sponsored the legislation, told the New York Times that the law would affect only a small number of terminally ill young people, such as cancer patients with no hope of successful treatment. “This is an act of humanity that allows the doctor to make the most humane course of action for his patient,” said Mahoux, who trained as a surgeon
According to a survey by another newspaper, La Libre Belgique, three-quarters of the citizens in Belgium, a secular country but predominantly Roman Catholic, support granting incurably sick minors the option of euthanasia.
Canada is now being slowly reintroduced to the idea as of the Feb. 23, the Liberal Party of Canada, according to the Canadian Press, has voted to legalize assisted suicide at the party’s convention. Interesting timing, considering that Quebec is set to adopt a law that if passed would make Quebec the first province in in Canada to legalize euthanasia.
The Supreme Court last addressed the issue in 1993, when it delivered a landmark 5-4 ruling against physician-assisted suicide, and its decision to revisit the matter is considered significant. The Supreme Court of Canada has also decided to revisit this case 20 years after the Robert Latimer case first came to public attention.
Medical professionals remain divided on this issue, with the Canadian Medical Association poll last year finding only one out of five doctors in the country who are willing to assist a patient to die if euthanasia was decriminalized.
“We share the concerns of the most vulnerable populations, especially people in the disability community,” said Liberal delegate Wendy Robbins, who spoke in favor of the resolution. “It covers health, it covers justice. We think we have the right to die with dignity
Simultaneously a number of delegates opposed to the issue, saying the priority should be better palliative care and ensuring people die in comfort.
“The danger is, the more we focus on ending life, the less we focus on ending pain and suffering or the use of technologies to overcome disability and loss of function,” said one unnamed delegate who identified himself as a doctor at a recent vote on the matter.
The Liberal delegates voted overwhelmingly for the motion, increasing the pressure on Justin Trudeau when he runs for Prime Minister in the upcoming elections.
However, Justin Trudeau is yet to take a strong stance on euthanasia, while voicing his discomfort that until Canada obtains a high quality of palliative healthcare, euthanasia, according to him, could sometimes be a shortcut.
[button style=”e.g. solid, border” size=”e.g. small, medium, big” link=”” target=””]Image: Andreas Praefcke[/button]