Perspectives

When children ‘choose’ to die

Sacrificing babes on the altar of autonomy

All must be sacrificed for the demon-gods “autonomy” and “choice.” This is why they are killing children in Belgium.

In 2014, Belgium, which already had perhaps the most permissive euthanasia laws in the world, amended those laws to permit doctors to euthanize children.

As is always the case, the rationale was a mixture of wooly thinking: a professed desire to alleviate suffering and a belief that children, some as young as nine, have the requisite emotional and intellectual capacity to choose to end their lives.

This is lethal nonsense, as Charles Lane of the Washington Post has repeatedly pointed out.

Lane’s most recent column on the subject was prompted by a July report issued by the Belgian agency that regulates euthanasia.

According to the report, between the start of 2016 and the end of 2017, Belgian doctors euthanized three children, one of them only nine years old and another eleven years old.

A member of the commission told Lane the law was strictly followed. He said, “I saw mental and physical suffering so overwhelming that I thought we did a good thing.”

Actually, as Lane pointed out, the gentleman didn’t see anything. He was “relying on reports by the anonymous physicians who participated in the euthanasias.” The simple fact is there’s no way to independently verify the physicians’ assertions about the hopelessness of these children’s conditions, or how close they were to natural death. We simply have to take their word for it.

In Belgium, euthanasia is, to borrow an expression from science, a “black box.” We can see what it does—kill people, old and young—but we have no real idea about how it really works.

There are several things that make euthanizing children especially repugnant. As Lane writes, “Everywhere else in the world, the law reflects powerful human intuitions, moral and practical: that it is wrong to abandon hope for a person so early in life, no matter the illness . . .”

This is why the death of a child is so devastating, spiritually as well as emotionally. It’s why the parents of children with disabilities, both cognitive and physical, are fierce advocates for their children and those like them.

The 2016 book, “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism” is filled with stories about the parents of autistic children who refused to abandon hope for their children and instead persuaded the rest of society not to abandon hope, either.

But not only is Belgium turning its back on this noblest of human intuitions, it’s also turning its back on the responsibility to protect children from themselves. As Lanes writes, “it is absurd to grant ultimate medical autonomy to someone too young to vote or legally consent to sex.”

Think about it: In Belgium if a fifteen-year-old girl expresses a desire to have sex with a 20-year-old boy, the answer is “no!” Her parents can’t write her a note exempting the “relationship” from the country’ laws against statutory rape. They can’t “consent” on her behalf.

And yet, in Belgium a request from a nine-year-old to end his life is taken seriously. While his parents can intervene and veto the request, absent such a veto, the same black box that has ended the life of more than four thousand adults will consider his request.

An analogous dynamic is on display here in the U.S. Children who can’t legally consent to having sex under any circumstances, somehow are still taken seriously when it comes to the life-changing decision to begin taking puberty blockers. There’s even legal advice about how to get around recalcitrant parents, by invoking what’s called the “mature minor doctrine.”

All of this is an assault on the highest calling parents have: to protect and cherish our children. But this is what happens when people make autonomy their god: They end up sacrificing children on its altar.

John Stonestreet

 

— by John Stonestreet

Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2018 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

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