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Teenager becomes first 'legally killed' minor in Belgium

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A terminally ill teenager has become the first minor to be killed by euthanasia, after age restrictions on euthanasia in Belgium were abolished in 2014.

The 17-year-old's case is the first official 'legal killing' of a minor, making Belgium the only country in the world that permits euthanasia at any age.

The law requires that the minor has rational decision-making capacity, is in the final stages of terminal illness, and the parents to give their consent.

The head of the federal euthanasia commission said that the 17-year-old was "suffering unbearable physical pain". No further details on the case have been released.

Danger of legalising assister suicide

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, described the case as "an absolute tragedy".

"This case demonstrates the dangers of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rather than being given a message of hope, the most vulnerable in society - even minors who are unable to vote - are offered death as a way out. These cases reflect the need for us to continue strongly opposing any liberalisation of UK law."

Doctors ending, not saving, lives

Alistair Thompson, spokesman for Care Not Killing, a UK-based campaign group, said:

"It is a truly shocking case. Doctors and healthcare professionals are meant to protect patients. The moment you say they can in certain circumstances kill their patients, it is always going to be debatable about exactly how old or mentally competent they must be."

A Belgian lawmaker, in support of euthanasia, has told VTM (the main commercial television station in Flanders, Belgium): "I think it's very important that we, as a society, have given the opportunity to those people to decide for themselves in what manner they cope with that situation."

In response to this, Christian leader Albert Mohler, said:

"[The legislator] says 'those people' and 'that situation,' referring to those who become the victims of euthanasia and to that situation presumably being a situation that could involve end-of-life questions with terminal illness or incurable suffering or any number of other issues.

"It's all reduced here merely to 'those people' and 'that situation.' Why is that problematic? It's problematic because 'those people' are not acknowledged in this kind of language to be human beings, each and every one of whom is made in the image of God. Human life is simply diminished in this case to 'those people'."

A study carried out by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry claims that around 1,000 doctors each year illegally help their patients to commit suicide.

Earlier this year, the chairwoman of Dignity in Dying, Baroness Molly Meacher, thanked the "thousands of doctors" that help terminally-ill patients to die every year, and "risk their own freedom to help their patients" kill themselves.

'Pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives'

Since euthanasia and assisted suicide first became legal in the Netherlands, several other countries have legalised it. Euthanasia is now legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Columbia. In Belgium alone, almost 5% of all deaths are by euthanasia.

Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, and in the American states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

Critics believe that legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide puts pressure on the terminally-ill person. The Evangelical Alliance says that assisted suicide "place[s] pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives for fear of being a financial, emotional or care burden upon others".

Earlier this year the BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show interviewed a man who could not accept his same-sex attraction, and was consequentially opting for euthanasia. Dr Mike Davidson, Director of Core Issues Trust, wrote an article in response to the case, arguing that there are alternatives to death in this situation, such as counselling.

Related Links:
The appaling choice: accept your homosexuality or euthanise 
Terminally ill teenager, 17, who 'asked to die' is killed under controversial euthanasia law in Belgium (Mail Online) 
Belgium minor first to be granted euthanasia (BBC)
The culture of death advances: A chilld euthanized in Belgium (Albert Mohler)