The Corner


U.S. Bioethicist Supports Child Euthanasia

(Lee Celano/Reuters)

The U.S. assisted-suicide movement pretends to want a limited legalization of assisted suicide to competent adults with a terminal illness.

That’s not true. It’s just the expedient to persuade us to accept the premise that suicide or killing is an acceptable solution to human suffering.

If we ever do that — the jury is still out — then, the killing license thereby granted will not only expand way beyond the terminally ill, but will eventually also include children and the incompetent.

The evidence of this isn’t hard to find. Case in point. Pediatrics asked Dutch and American bioethicists whether they would support repealing all age limits for euthanasia in the Netherlands — as the Belgians already have. (Currently, euthanasia in the Netherlands is legal starting at age 12.)

If American advocates were serious about their espoused limits, they would be appalled by the existing Dutch law, and even more so by the Pediatrics hypothetical proposal.

But at least one prominent U.S. proponent — Margaret P. Battin, a favored source on the issue for the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets — is enthusiastically in favor of the Dutch doing away with all euthanasia age limits. From her comment:

I generally support [the] change in Dutch law governing eligibility for euthanasia.‍ Given that euthanasia is currently legal for infants <1 year of age and children and adults >12 years of age, I believe that opponents would have to show evidence that at least 1 and perhaps many of the following propositions are true if they are to persuade you [a hypothetical Dutch health minister] not to support the change in the law:

Battin lists several propositions, including:

That parents aren’t harmed by seeing their children suffer.

In other words, children should be put out of the parents’ misery:

That pediatricians can’t understand the difference between killing a healthy, curable child and hastening a bad death that is already in progress.

Except that Dutch law does not require a terminal illness to be killed. Indeed, the infanticide-allowing Groningen Protocol — it isn’t technically legal, but is virtually never punished — specifically does not require that the killed baby be otherwise dying. In fact, under the Protocol, serious disabilities justify infanticide.

That allowing this practice would lead to wholesale killing of children from 1 to 12 years of age.

In other words, killing would only be wrong if it amounted to a pogrom against seriously ill or disabled children. Good grief.

That it is always wrong to end a life.‍ (Proponents of this view would need to address situations such as killing in war, killing in self-defense, killing in defense of others, and [more controversially] capital punishment; they would also need to oppose current laws in the Netherlands that allow euthanasia for children <1 year of age and adults >18 years of age.

So, since babies and children age 12 and up can be killed, the Dutch should go all-in. Or to put it another way, once a society starts down Euthanasia Road, there is no stopping.

Battin’s radical proposals aren’t usually made by U.S. assisted-suicide proponents because they know that our society has not completely swallowed the hemlock (as has the Netherlands). If we ever do, we will go exactly to the dark place that country has gone over the last few decades — just as Battin advocates.

It’s a very big deal that a respected Dutch medical journal such as Pediatrics hosted a debate on the ethical propriety of child euthanasia without international criticism. It means that among the medical intelligentsia, child euthanasia has become a respectable proposition.

For those with eyes to see, let them see.

Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its original publication.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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