To tie into Jackie Glodener’s post about autonomy and children, an extreme case about this topic became reality last week when Belgium granted the right to euthanasia for minors. The Parliament passed the law 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions. Back in 2002, the country legalized euthanasia for those in “constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated” for adults and have since extended the law to include children.
The new bill gives the right only under strict conditions, which seem to fulfill Miller’s four senses of autonomy. A child psychologist or psychiatrist will examine the child’s capability of decision-making, which matches Miller’s idea that the patient is fully competent and aware of his or her decision and addresses previous apprehensions about autonomous decisions in children. The child must receive adequate information from the doctor and his or her parents about death itself. The parents also must give consent for the child’s decision. In addition, the bill protects the doctor’s opinion by stating that no doctor would be forced to carry out the act against his or her will. In all cases the child would have the option of palliative treatment.
While the law’s guidelines seem to adhere to the principle of respect for autonomy, there still seems to be something morally wrong and complex about the issue at hand.
An article about the bill can be found here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/13/world/europe/belgium-euthanasia-law-children/