Outrage over Belgian decision to euthanize children continues unabated. It is terrible what happens there, says the Vatican. In Germany, meanwhile, the debate over a ban on organized euthanasia continues.
Vatican has called Belgium’s law on active euthanasia for children cruel. "Terrible, if you only think about what is happening," said Cardinal Elio Sgreccia. Cardinal Sgreccia told Vatican Radio on Saturday that it was "monstrous" what was now happening to children, "not only before birth but also after birth". A "bit of pity and human compassion would be enough to rule out certain things.". The Italian bioethicist headed the Pontifical Academy for Life from 2005 to 2008.
The Belgian bishops said in a statement they were disappointed by the parliament’s decision to give a child the right to request his or her own death: "This violates the ban on killing."The law would question the basis of human coexistence. According to the bishops, the door is now open to include the disabled, dementia patients, the mentally ill or those who are tired of life in active euthanasia.
Euthanasia out of control
Also in Germany the criticism of the Belgian parliamentary decision does not tear off. Belgium is an example of how "euthanasia can get out of control," said CDU member of parliament Michael Brand.
Brand told Deutschlandradio Kultur on Saturday that he was shocked by the idea that children "should be put in a position of responsibility here that we are not allowed to put them in". In the meantime, Belgium is already discussing euthanasia for dementia patients: "That is not my idea of how our society should look, that we should send those who are weak, whether they are young or old, over the Jordan River."
Brand called for a strict ban on organized euthanasia in Germany. "We can’t make life available," said the Fulda-based member of the Bundestag, who is expected to initiate a corresponding bill in the CDU/CSU parliamentary group. People should not be helped "to die, but to die": "We must expand hospice work, expand palliative medicine and at the same time we must prevent suicide and assisted suicide from becoming a normal option."
In Brand’s view, assisted suicide should continue to be exempt from punishment. "But an organized form, where associations make money with it or where untrained people believe at the end, they can decide whether the person now changes the place from this world to the hereafter, that can not be the solution," said the CDU politician.
In Germany, the German Children’s Hospice Association also criticized the Belgian law change. The association, based in Olpe in the Sauerland, however, welcomed the discussion, which has now also been triggered in Germany, in a statement on Friday. "We reject active euthanasia in every form. Children want to live", the association announced. In the work of 20 outpatient hospice services for children and young people throughout Germany, no child has ever expressed the wish for active euthanasia. Instead, the association demands an expansion of the accompanying hospice work and palliative medical care.
The German Hospice and Palliative Association (DHPV) condemned the plans as "scandalous". This is "a decision against the weakest in the society. It contradicts any notion of humanity."
German solution still open
Currently, the Bundestag in Berlin is preparing a reform, organized euthanasia should be prohibited. Active euthanasia is currently prohibited in Germany; anyone who kills someone at their request faces up to five years in prison. Permitted is however passive euthanasia, with which physicians terminate life-sustaining measures and switch off for instance the respirator.
Under the government of CDU/CSU and FDP, a law to ban assisted suicide had failed. The then Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) had presented a draft according to which only commercially oriented, i.e. commercial euthanasia would have been punished. Union did not go far enough. She called for a ban on any organized, so-called business-like assisted suicide, so that associations offering so-called assisted suicide could also be prosecuted.
King still has to agree
On Thursday, the Belgian parliament had approved a bill to extend euthanasia to minors, which has been legal for adults since 2002. The condition is that the child suffers from "constant and unbearable" physical pain and death is expected soon.
The change in the law is expected to come into force in a few weeks. First, Belgium’s King Philippe has yet to sign the law, which is widely expected to happen. This makes Belgium a pioneer. The Netherlands also allows doctors to administer lethal drugs on demand to seriously ill adolescents, but only when the patient is 12 years old or older.