Press release: 162 Belgian Paediatricians raise grave concerns about child euthanasia

Ahead of the parliamentary debate on the Child Euthanasia amendment bill in the Belgian Lowe House, what began as a small group of 40 paediatricians raising concerns has now grown to 162 signatories to this Press Release issued on the 11th of February:  The
Belgian bill has already passed the Senate and is expected to be debated on February 13.
 
Brussels, 11 February 2014
 
 
Paediatricians call for levelheaded dialogue with policymakers
 
Concerns about the overhasty political decision to expand legislation on euthanasia
 
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On 30 January past, a group of 40 paediatricians issued an open letter to all Belgian party chairmen. In this letter, they called upon the politicians NOT to organize an overhasty vote on the bill about the expansion of the legislation concerning euthanasia. This initiative has very quickly triggered a wide-ranging debate. The group of concerned paediatricians keeps growing and signatures of paediatricians from hospitals of different orientations are constantly arriving from across the nation.
In spite of the fact that this call is being supported by an ever increasing number of paediatricians and sympathizers from the academic world, the hand extended to the politicians has thus far been ignored. For that reason, the paediatricians have decided to take the initiative and will today present their open letter personally to the President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, Mr Andre Flahaut.
 
 
The signatories of the letter work in a variety of health centres and hospitals around the country. They draw up their main points following the ongoing debates in the Lower House of Parliament.
 
  • On the basis of their daily experience, the doctors believe there is no actual demand for an extension of the law. Spontaneous and deliberate requests for euthanasia are extremely rare on the part of minors. Even the most complex medical cases can be addressed through available means and expertise within the present legal framework. A recent survey of 54 paediatricians in 19 countries likewise demonstrates the lack abroad of any more relevant requests in the field.
  • Means of alleviating pain are widespread in Belgium within present medical scope, far more so than in most other countries. No patient, no child therefore, need suffer nowadays. As of today we are perfectly capable of controlling physical pain, smothering or anguish in the throes of death. Established palliative care teams for children are fully able to relieve pain, whether in hospital or at home. The bill proposed for extending euthanasia was dealt with far too rapidly in the Senate and the Lower House: just the other day all demands for further hearings of paediatric experts in the Lower House were dismissed. Hence the Parliament's inability to give due consideration to experts' first-hand opinions.
  • Caring for severely sick children of itself requires undivided commitment. The strain would accordingly be all the more acute for medical staff and the family to have to face a most distressing ethical choice: "Shall we yes or no resort to active euthanasia?"
  • Under the proposed bill, the request for euthanasia is conditional on the minor's capacity for judgement. In practice however, there is no objective way of determining a child's capacity for discernment and judgment. The matter is thus widely open to subjective appreciation and influence.

 

Following the above observations, the signatories of the letter believe that further debate on the issue is an absolute necessity. They therefore invite politicians not to introduce the present bill under the current legislature. Based on their daily experience, they are more than willing to take part in a thorough review of the question.
Press contact :
 
VPR Consult - Carl Bosteels - carl.bosteels@vprconsult.be - +32 473 68 28 50
 
A list of 162 signatories was attached to this Press Release
 

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