A heartbreaking report from Belgium indicates that 24 infants were killed through euthanasia. The report in Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal and Neonatal edition does not use the word “euthanasia,” but describes the intentional killing of babies with medical challenges through lethal injection.
The study examined the cases of all newborn babies (those under the age of one) who died in Flanders, Belgium, between September 2016 and December 2017. In follow-up questionnaires, the researchers learned how end-of-life care was conducted for each child. Shockingly, in 10% of the case (24 babies), researchers found that doctors had an “explicit life-shortening intention.”
What is even more disturbing than the murder of innocent and defenseless babies is the reason cited for the action. According to the study, the medical team for newborns killed in euthanasia took action to end the child’s life when they thought there was “no hope of a bearable future.” Once again, the subjective “quality of life” assessment is used to justify the murder of an innocent human being.
The study also brings to light the all-too-common practice of infant euthanasia, despite the fact that such action is against the law. As Michael Cook of BioEdge notes, “It is well-known that eligibility for euthanasia in Belgium is elastic. However, there are limits. The law only permits the euthanasia of minors who are capable of discernment and who are conscious.”
In 2014, Belgium became the first country to legalize assisted suicide for minors, an anti-Life decision that was condemned by many people and organizations concerned with the welfare of vulnerable youth. The law requires that the juvenile be deemed terminally ill and be fully conscious and capable of making the decision to pursue assisted suicide. Between 2016 and 2017, the same year of the study of deceased infants, three children sought euthanasia under the 2014 law.
There was understandable outrage and concern over the deaths of three young people, one in 2016 and two in 2017. Years later, the findings of the recent study indicate that in those same years, at least 24 infants were killed in one region of Belgium.
Not only is the fact of these infant deaths disturbing, but also the fact that they were unnecessary. Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition looks at the reason given for the killing of babies cited in the study. The idea that there was “no hope of a bearable future” means that these babies were not necessarily terminally ill. As Schadenberg writes, “In other words, these children had a real chance of survival, but the medical team – no doubt in agreement with their parents – considered that their lives were not worth living to the end.”
As we have seen in far too many cases, we cannot assume that the euthanasia was pursued with the parents’ consent. High profile cases internationally like Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans show that doctors sometimes withhold care from vulnerable babies without the consent of their rightful guardians. In Texas, the case of Tinslee Lewis is a reminder that doctors are empowered by an unjust law to act against the expressed wishes of the child’s parents.
In these cases, doctors attempted to remove life-sustaining care. How much more horrific in the cases of 24 babies whose doctors administered drugs intentionally ending the lives of defenseless children in a vulnerable medical situation. A just society defends the weak and protects those who cannot speak for themselves.
The extra-legal euthanasia of dozens of infants in Belgium should be a warning to the rest of the world. Where assisted suicide is legal, more people choose death. As we have seen with many places that have legalized killing the ill and disabled, the number of those killed rises year over year. Unfortunately, the same appears to hold true for babies. Unless Belgium and other nations change course, we can expect that more innocent lives will be destroyed.