European doctors from the Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) organisation have voiced their disagreement to the Belgian law that allows euthanasia of terminally ill children. “Children have the right to special protection and access to palliative care, but in Italy [these services] are available only in 11 regions.” according to a report in Vita.it, an Italian online news platform. The report goes on to state that even paediatricians in Brussels dissociate themselves from the new law. “Passing a law that authorises euthanasia for children and adolescents is a choice that we cannot share. We can not share it particularly as pediatricians, always committed to protect the health of children, especially those with chronic diseases and more fragile, complex causes of disability,” said the President of the Sip, John Corsello, on hearing the final approval of the Belgian law allowing euthanasia to all children. The law has aroused controversy across Europe with even the Belgian National Association of Paediatrics expressing its opposition.
The report quotes John Corsello further as he describes the child as a special person due to reduced autonomy in choice and in judgment, and for this reason deserves the utmost respect. “The sick child needs more protection because of this reduced autonomy related to age in addition to that caused by the disease,” adds Corsello. “In an advanced society like ours, the respect for the human person, for his life and for his dignity can never be questioned. We cannot concede on the values that are the basis of cohabitation and civil society: one of these, the most important, is respect for the children, for all children, healthy and with acute or chronic, severe and disabling conditions,” says Corsello.
Corsello concludes that all sick children should be guaranteed access to palliative care and pain therapy. He states that In Italy there is the Law 38 of 2010 which recognises that children have specific and special needs compared to those of adults, such as the right to comprehensive care that includes physical, emotional, social and spiritual care. This care should be provided through a regional network separate to that of the adult palliative care networks. He also stressed that Italy should fully implement the law as so far only 11 regions have approved the setting up children’s palliative care and pain therapy networks, only 4 have really begun, and there is only one paediatric hospice, which is in Veneto.
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