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Rachelle Sauvageau, Published March 12 2014

Letter: Euthanasia can never be called ‘humane’ act

On Feb. 24, The Forum published an article in its SheSays section on Belgium’s new law allowing for the euthanization of children. The article headlined the new legislation as a “humane stance on dying kids.” The author assured readers that acts of euthanasia would be carried out with strict guidelines (minors faced with constant and unbearable pain; capacity for discernment; parental consent; psychological evaluation) so that abuses don’t occur.

Belgium’s experiment with euthanasia for adults has proved the ineffectiveness of such guidelines set forth by legislation and offers no guarantee that abuses will not occur with this new law for children. Passed in 2002, Belgium permits adults who are in a “medically futile condition of constant and unbearable pain or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated, resulting from a serious or incurable disorder caused by illness or accident” to request that they be intentionally killed.

The reality of the past 10 years of legalized euthanasia for adults shows a 500 percent increase in cases; half of the cases are not reported; Euthanasia has been committed on persons who are blind, anorexic and who have had botched sex change operations; and the practice of organ transplant from patients who die after voluntary euthanasia is becoming more common.

The American College of Pediatrics issued a statement on Feb. 17 condemning the passage of the new law. In part, they said:

“Physicians are healers, not killers. An individual’s future quality of life cannot be predicted by caregivers. The role of the physician is to promote health, cure when possible, and relieve pain and suffering as part of the care they provide. The intentional neglect for, or taking of, a human life is never acceptable, regardless of health system mandates. The killing of infants and children can never be endorsed by the American College of Pediatricians and should never be endorsed by any other ethical medical or social entity.”

Euthanasia, regardless of the euphemisms used to mask its true identity, can never be considered a “humane” act. It can never be an authentic human response to kill an innocent human person, most especially when they are suffering, vulnerable, terminally ill or dying. The author of the article calls for people to talk about euthanasia with “more honesty and less hyperbole,” yet would it not be a more proper human response to talk about ways the medical community can better educate and provide adequate palliative care services, pain control management, and support programs for parents who are suffering with a child who has disabilities, is terminally ill or dying?

This would be the true human response of care and concern, of using medical expertise combined with compassion in order to meet the needs of children and family members struggling with the dying process.

Sauvageau is director, Respect for Life Office, Diocese of Fargo.