It's a jarring headline and a difficult debate: Belgium is currently weighing a bill that would legalize the euthanasia of children. It would obviously require the parents' OK, and apply only to those situations where the child is in what the AP calls a "desperately painful situation." Proponents say it boils down to compassion. Still, the law would be an unprecedented one, though the Netherlands permits euthanasia among children over age 12 who fit tight requirements.
The bill is facing some tough opposition, with the Christian Democratic Flemish party promising to take its fight against it all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. The main argument: Children lack the capacity to make a decision of this magnitude. One Catholic archbishop has argued that "palliative sedation," where patients are sedated and removed from life support, renders euthanasia unnecessary; but the AP points out death in that process comes by way of starvation, which can take days. Euthanasia among adults has been legal for more than a decade in Belgium, though this bill, proposed by the ruling Socialist party, would also expand the law there and extend the right to die to adults with early dementia. A final decision must be approved by Parliament and could take months.