Joni Eareckson Tada 'dismayed' at Belgian child euthanasia law
Joni Eareckson Tada, renowned evangelical artist and advocate for the disabled, has strongly condemned the Belgian government's plans to pass a law making euthanasia available to children.
The bill was voted on by the Belgian Senate with 50 to 17 in favour and aims to extend the existing practice of medically administered death to those under 18.
The law in question does stipulate certain caveats, including that:
• The patient must be fully conscious of their decision and understand the meaning of euthanasia
• The request must be approved by both the child's parents and medical team
• Their illness must be terminal (as opposed to chronic)
• They must be in great pain, with no available treatment to alleviate the symptoms
However Ms Eareckson Tada has expressed concern over how the bill will impact children with disabilities.
The law is now due to go to the lower house of the Belgian Parliament, where it is expected to pass.
"I am dismayed that the Belgium Parliament may soon legalise euthanasia for children with disabilities," said Tada, before quoting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which the Belgian Parliament ratified in 2009.
"Article 10 in the CRPD clearly declares that 'States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others'.
"How can, on one hand, Belgian legislators insist that people with disabilities have 'the inherent right to life,' yet extend a so-called right-to-die to not merely adults, but shockingly, minors who feel burdened by their disability?
"A 10-year-old child with a disability simply does not have the psychological wherewithal to determine his or her own demise.
"Life is the most irreplaceable and fundamental condition of the human experience and it is morally reprehensible to assume that a child understands the gravity of choosing his or her own death."
This is an area on which Ms Eareckson Tada has experience, being left paralysed from the shoulders down after a diving accident at the age of 17.
According to her biography, she experienced religious doubts, anger, depression and suicidal thoughts.
However, she eventually learned to paint using a paintbrush held between her lips, and has since recorded studio albums and written over 40 books.
Expressing concern that this case could set a precedent, she said: "I call on Christians of conscience everywhere to pray for Belgium and its leaders, and to consider the ramifications here in the US and in other parts of the world if this devaluing of life continues to run rampant."
She continued: "We are to minister to those who are hurting, not agree with them that life isn't worth living.
"We are called to defend the helpless, not destroy them."