Will Child Euthanasia Ever Be Legalized in the U.S.?
Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
- 2014 Feb 18
You may have already heard the heartbreaking news: Belgium’s parliament voted in favor of a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit. Experts expect King Philippe to sign the bill into law.
The move comes only 12 years after Belgium legalized euthanasia for adults. It was a fast tumble down the slippery slope.
As Americans, there’s a certain temptation to read news like this and though we gulp and sigh, we think this sort of thing only happens in Europe, not the United States.
Yet there are American voices that support granting our children the same “right to die.”
For example, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial this weekend arguing just that.
It read, “… if we believe that it is humane to give terminally ill adults the right to end their lives with medical help, how can we not extend that ability to terminally ill minors? Because of their age, they should be forced to suffer more than an adult?”
The problem is, the editorial’s logic is correct. Once you allow for physician-assisted suicide (when a doctor prescribes, and the patient takes, death-inducing pills) or euthanasia (when a doctor administers a lethal injection – either by patient request or the medical community’s initiative), you can’t stop the logical progression towards a culture of death with no age restrictions.
Think about it this way: allowing doctors to kill, or to assist in death, is like putting fire in a paper bag; it cannot be controlled.
After all, once you accept the premise that someone’s life isn’t worth living, who’s to stop the government, medical community or society from saying someone else’s life isn’t worth the hassle – even if that person wants to live? Even if the family wants to take care of their struggling son or daughter?
It’s a short leap from the so-called “compassion” of euthanasia to the vulnerable being told it’s their “duty” to die. We’ve seen it happen before – and history tends to repeat itself. The possibility of this type of abuse is real.
That’s one reason why we must stand for life, even in the heart-wrenching cases when people are suffering. And in saying this, I don’t want to ignore the real despair both patient and family can face when there’s seemingly no hope of relief or improvement. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for a parent to see their child in constant pain. It’s natural to want to end torment – even Jesus Christ, in his hour of sorrow, prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”
But the second half of his prayer concluded: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Likewise for us as a people, it is wisest to allow the Author of Life to make the decision of when an individual’s earthly life should end. As humans, our compassion isn’t greater than His. Our stories – even when they are marked by agony and affliction – can serve a greater good.
I don’t always understand what the Lord is up to, but my theology demands that I must trust difficult circumstances, and hurting people, to our loving God who has made clear that human life is sacred.
But I’m curious to hear what you think.