So, it looks like Belgium is taking a big step in enabling a terminally ill child to end his/her life. If this passes, there will be no age limit resisting euthanasia, as long as a child understands what it means and as long as the parents are in agreement with the child's decision.
Personally, I think this could alleviate a great deal of emotional and physical pain, both on the patient and the family. I know it's going to raise a bit of controversy, but as quite a few of you know now, I work in a long-term pediatric healthcare facility, where a great deal of my patients are kids who are terminally ill. I've noted in the suicide thread that I've worked with a 14-year-old girl who was drugged with PCP, and her mental state was degraded to the point (when she first entered our facility) that she was constantly unconscious, unaware, paralyzed from the neck down, reliant on a feeding tube, and dependent on a ventilator for her every breath of air. She entered the facility a year ago, and now she's able to move her arms and legs a bit, but not much else. She's also more aware and can understand everything we say to her, which we weren't sure she was capable of previously. Well, the other day, she fought three of us, and I mean kicking, punching, biting, scratching, when we tried to reattach her ventilator. We took it off to change her shirts, and it was so clear in her eyes and gestures that she wanted to die, right then and there. It took four people just to pin her down and get her to lay flat so that we could reattach the only thing that would keep her alive. She didn't want it. Her oxygen levels desaturated to the point that she had turned blue and had become too weak to fight us anymore. I mean, this poor girl cried and shook her head when we asked her if she wanted to get better, and what could we do? All we could we was reattach that ventilator and watch that perfectly cognizant girl, trapped in a paralyzed body, suffer.
Similarly, I have several patients who lack any signs of brain activity. They are "gone" to the point that we had to sew their eyes shut. They are essentially empty bodies being pumped full of nutrition and air with no hope of recovery. No movement, nothing. It's a way for the state to make a quick buck.
Now, there are a few points of controversy here. One in particular being that a child is not as mentally mature as an adult and could not make a sound decision at such a young age. Pediatricians argued, however:
“Why deprive minors of this last possibility? Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people.”
On the other hand, opponents argue:
"We think that children don't understand the character of death, they don't understand the irreversibility of death," said Els Van Hoof of the Christian Democratic and Flemish party. "They are also influenced by authority, by their parents, by the medical team. So, to take a decision which is a huge decision about their death we don't think that they are capable of doing it."
What does this mean for patients like mine? Well, I'm not sure. It states that the patient must be conscious of his/her decision, and how can that be determined from a child who can't speak over a ventilator? The parents must also agree, and many times in health care, the parents are nowhere to be found. This is the sad truth for the majority of my long-term patients. So then what? I know this is about Belgium, but what if this was present in the United States, or elsewhere?
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Anyway, basically what I want to discuss is what you guys think of this (and I don't know if this is more geared for D&D, but that's up to you, mods). Do you think children are mentally mature enough to understand that death is irreversible? Do you think this practice would be taken advantage of? Would there be too many regrets with such decisions?
As I just mentioned above, what does that mean for the patients whose families aren't involved? What about those who can't communicate verbally? Some of mine can blink once for "yes" and twice for "no", but is that method reliable enough for a doctor to make a decision and call it sound? I just feel that there are so many "ifs" to be discussed here.
Do you think such a bill would be passed in a country like the United States? What about other countries? Is this morally acceptable? I've seen it first hand, so I have my opinions fairly set in stone, but I'd like to hear some other opinions on the matter.