BRUSSELS, November 15, 2013 ( – The Belgian bishops' conference has joined other faith leaders in denouncing proposed legislation to extend euthanasia to children and dementia sufferers, warning the measure risks “destroying the functioning of society.”

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, conference president, said in a joint statement with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, that – while they are clearly “opposed to suffering, whether physical or moral, and especially the suffering of children” – the suggestion that “minors can decide on their own [to undergo] euthanasia is to falsify their power of judgment and their freedom.”

“To suggest persons with dementia can also be euthanized is to deny their dignity and hand them over to the arbitrary judgment of decision-makers,” the statement said.


The Belgian parliament has recently resumed its debate on a bill introduced in December 2012 proposing the extension of euthanasia to children under 18 years old with disabilities and people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

In an article in The Independent on October 8, Adam Withnall stated that the “supporters of the euthanasia bill say it would simply be bringing under legal control something which already happens anyway.”

“Studies have shown that, with terminally ill children whose parents are begging for their suffering to be brought to an end, doctors have been steadily increasing doses of painkillers until they reach lethal amounts,” Withnall wrote.

The Washington Post corroborated Withnall's statement with Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatric oncologist at the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussels hospital, who said the proposed changes would legalize what is already happening informally.

Van Berlaer said cases of euthanasia in children are rare but estimated anywhere from 10 to 100 cases in Belgium every year “might qualify.”

However, the religious leaders said that legalizing euthanasia for children left them “deeply alarmed…as citizens relying on philosophical arguments, and as believers inheriting our respective religious traditions.”

The policy, they said, risked “isolating the suffering person, branding him guilty and condemning him to death.”

The Belgian religious leaders concluded that all forms of suffering cause dismay, “but to prescribe euthanasia for vulnerable people radically contradicts their condition as human beings. We cannot enter into a logic which will lead to destruction of society’s very foundations.”

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Wesley J. Smith, award winning author, lawyer, and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism remarked that engaging the proposal of legally euthanizing children has pushed Belgium over the edge of the moral precipice.

“This is the horrific logic of euthanasia: Once killing is accepted as an answer to human difficulty and suffering, the power of sheer logic dictates that there is no bottom,” wrote Smith in a recent article published in the National Review Online. “What distinguishes Belgium is the frightening enthusiasm with which the Belgian people and doctors have embraced the killing agenda. They have leaped off a vertical moral cliff with a smile on their faces.”