Euthanasia for children back in the news

Categories: Opinion.

Saturday’s edition of BioEdge, an online magazine featuring bioethics news from around the world, focuses on two recent incidents related to the voluntary killing of children.

In his opening comment the editor, Michael Cook, relates his understanding of an article in a Czech bioethics journal which reports that a senior university lecturer and Czech government adviser, 78-year-old Miroslave Mitloehner, has lost his job over the views he expressed in a Czech Journal of Medical Law and Bioethics.

In an abstract submitted to the journal Mitloehner makes the argument that children born with severe disability should be left to die when “the malformations are so severe that they exclude the future possibility for meaningful and conscious human existence.”

The issue which led to him losing his job and being banned from writing for the journal was not so much with his views, which Cook describes as “legal in The Netherlands” and “common practice in many other countries” but with the crude language which he used in describing such babies as “freaks”.

Cook makes the point that “language matters when discussing infanticide. If babies are called “freaks”, you will lose your job. If you speak respectfully about killing them, you will (like Peter Singer) get awards from your government.”

An article in the same edition of BioEdge reports that Together, a Scottish alliance for children’s rights have called upon the Scottish Parliament to remember the rights of children when considering the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 13th November 2013.

While not endorsing any specific legislation introduced in other countries, Together recommends that the parliamentary committee “look at comparable legislation and learn from the experiences of other countries.”

In their response to the proposed legislation, Together reminds the committee that children are also prone to suffer from terminal illnesses and extreme physical pain, that terminal illnesses do not discriminate based on the age of a person and that children of all ages who have the ability to express an informed view on his or her treatment should be given the opportunity to do so and these views to be taken into account.

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Care Not Killing stated to the media that “Right-minded people will be baffled that such an idea can be advanced, not least from one organisation purporting to represent the interests of children. Such a monstrous idea should be unthinkable.”

Speaking on behalf of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), CEO Joan Marston said that the ICPCN believes that “euthanasia is not a part of palliative care and rather supports the provision of better palliative care, family and child support.” She went on to add that Scotland has one of the best systems worldwide for providing good palliative care to children. 

Reacting to the story coming out of the Czech Republic, Joan stated that children should never be abandoned to die.  In her words, “In such cases, the provision of excellent palliative care should be offered in order to provide comfort to the child and the parents, to ease any suffering and to ensure a pain free and peaceful death when the time comes.”

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