Belgian parliament

Belgian child euthanasia bill sparks debate in Bournemouth

A Bournemouth University academic has said that Belgium did a good thing extending euthanasia to terminally ill children.

An academic at Bournemouth University has welcomed Belgium’s extension of euthanasia to terminally ill children.

But not everyone agrees – a Bournemouth cleric has said that the real debate is on how a moral society cares for its sick and dying.

Dr Ann Luce, lecturer in journalism and communication, said, “From my research, I think suicide should be a universal right. People should be allowed to choose when to die and live.”

According to Dr Luce, terminally ill children should have the same right to euthanasia as adults. She argues that the problem is with society’s present understanding of childhood as one of weakness and naivety.

However, Rev Roger Carr-Jones, deacon at the Sacred Heart Church in Bournemouth, said that at the heart of euthanasia is the denigration of the human person.

“If we no longer view someone as fully human then we feel less afraid to end their lives,” he said.

“I have understood that the extension of euthanasia to minors is a sign that their human rights are being recognised and given equality with adults. However, from my perspective life is a gift from God and it is not for me to determine how that should be ended.”

Parliament in Belgium passed a bill on 13 February that will allow euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit. When the King signs the bill, Belgium will become the first country in the world to allow euthanasia without age restriction.

Assisted dying is currently illegal in England and there are lots of debates around the issue. In 2012 the court ruled that assisting a chronically ill person to die is illegal.

This has not deterred certain pro-euthanasia groups like Dignity in Dying from continuing their campaigns to see it legalised in the UK.

Dignity in Dying spokesperson Jo Cartwright said, “We campaign for people who are terminally ill and mentally competent to have the choice. In our view (and that of the law in England and Wales) mental capacity requires a person to be a consenting adult.

“The law change … in Belgium is far broader than anything Dignity in Dying campaigns for, and broader than anything the UK public would want.”

Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer had set a bill before the House of Lords in May 2013 seeking to relax the ban on euthanasia. The bill will be debated later this year.

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