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Religious Leaders Unite to Oppose Belgium Extending Euthanasia to Children. Say "It Would Be An 'Inhuman' Practice"

Brussels, Belgium, (Zenit.org) Ivan de Vargas. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Belgium issued a joint communique Wednesday last week opposing the legalization of euthanasia for minors suffering from incurable diseases, a norm that could be approved after almost two years of debate in the Senate.

"Euthanasia of the most fragile persons is inhuman and destroys the foundations of our society," they lamented. "It is a denial of the dignity of these persons and leaves them to the judgment, that is, the arbitrariness of the one who decides," they added.

In the note, published by Cathobel agency, the religious leaders also state that they are "against the physical and moral suffering, particularly of children," but they explain that "to propose that minors can choose their death is a way of falsifying their faculty of judgment and, consequently, their freedom."

"We express our heartfelt anxiety in face of the risk of a growing trivializing of such a grave reality," they concluded.

For his part, the president of the Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Malines-Brussels,  Andre-Joseph Leonard, has stated on many occasions that "it is strange that children cannot take decisions in many important areas of life, as, for instance, marriage, but they can give themselves the luxury of taking a decision about their death." It is "the gravest decision that can be taken in regard to them," he concluded.

The possible legalization of euthanasia for minors suffering from incurable diseases has been debated for almost two years in the Senate. Should it gain approval, the law would be extended that has been in force since 2002, which recognizes euthanasia for the elderly or emancipated minor (beginning at 15), capable, with a prognosis of irreversible sickness, enduring constant or unbearable physical or psychic suffering or a grave incurable sickness.

The reform, which is promoted by the Belgian Socialists and supported by several political groups, with the exception of the Vlaams Belang Flemish Party and the Christian Democrats, acquires great importance as it would become the most permissive law on euthanasia. In other countries, such as Holland, the decision is up to the minor between 16 and 18 years of age and calls for paternal consent for cases between 12 and 16 years.

In the Belgian proposal the minor has the "capacity of discernment," something that will have to be validated by the doctor looking after the case and by a child psychiatrist.

In Europe, euthanasia is legal in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland, where the number of requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide increased by 13% in the year 2012. In total, Holland had 4,188 requests that year, according to a report of the Regional Health Committees in charge of evaluating these procedures in the country.

For additional information (in French) go to: http://info.catho.be/2013/11/06/communique-des-chefs-religieux-en-belgique-au-sujet-de-leuthanasie/

A ZENIT analysis of the trend toward euthanasia: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/euthanasia-alert