Joseph M. Valenzano, Jr.By Joseph M. Valenzano, Jr.
President & CEO, Exceptional Parent

Normally, I try to never use the pages of Exceptional Parent to express my own personal opinions. As the President, CEO and Publisher of this forty three year old award winning publication, I believe passionately that we must maintain independence in delivering information to families and professionals involved in the care and development of people with chronic life long conditions and special health care needs. But today, I am unable in good conscience to conduct myself in this manner. Today, I am, in a word angry. Not a little angry, mind you, but fighting angry. Let me tell you why.

On February 13, 2014 Belgium became the first country in the civilized world to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age when its lower house of parliament passed a new "right-to-die" legislation by a large majority. The law goes beyond Dutch legislation that set a minimum age of 12 for children judged "mature enough" to decide to end their lives. It has popular support in Belgium where adult euthanasia became legal in 2002. The governing socialist and liberal party overwhelmingly supported it while Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders denounced the law ahead of the vote in a rare joint declaration and Catholic Bishops have led days of vigils, prayer and fasting against it. I wonder when it was decided that children suddenly became mature enough to make such a determination. I wonder still what happened to the Hippocratic Oath taken by all physicians to "first do no harm"?

The vote, incidentally, has attracted more attention in other countries than in Belgium where none of the major newspapers carried the vote on their front pages. Fascinating.

The new law specifies that children seeking euthanasia must be terminally ill rather than in just a state of unbearable suffering, which is the qualification of adults. I suppose this is to be interpreted as some kind of safeguard or to give some form of justification for the law, as if unbearable suffering can be clearly determined. Incredible!

So, those of you reading this might ask the question...."why are you so angry over something that is happening over in Europe thousands of miles away; what business is it of yours". And my response would be: That very same question was asked loudly while Hitler was killing thousands of Jews and Poles and Christians and that occurred just 70 years ago. It seems the Belgian people have forgotten man's inhumanity to man because they were in the very midst of it. How can I not be troubled? How are you not troubled? Since when does the state or government make rules for those who may be terminally ill to take their lives. How is it justified? Unless of course you go back to Holland where the Dutch Courts allowed the taking of a life of a profoundly disabled child who was deemed at birth to "not be able to lead a life free from pain and would cost the state too much money to provide care, all certified of course by physicians" If this doesn't frighten or concern you, nothing will.

In this regard, Holland also seems to have forgotten the terror that engulfed it by Nazi Germany. Apart from Belgium, euthanasia is also legal in neighboring countries like Luxemborg, Switzerland and of course, the Netherlands. France is considering legalizing it later this year. I wonder if there is anyone left who recalls the warning posed by the great English Philosopher Edmund Burke over two hundred years ago: "All that is necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to stand by and do nothing" Well, this writer has not forgotten and will not forget.

The United States is not exactly pure in this regard. Assisted Suicide, tragically, is permissible in Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State. But then again, so is marijuana use so I am not sure how much pride they can take in either. But if assisted suicide is acceptable, can euthanasia be far behind. I know.......the cry will be...."Impossible, it will never happen here"

Never is a long, long time. This is something that we cannot be apathetic about. We must object and we must speak out. It is simply wrong. Why are governments instituting laws to allow children to commit suicide or to have a doctor take their life? Where is the righteousness in this? Have we become so shallow and so self centered to think that such a step is in the interests of mankind? As I read the Reuters report on the subject, it was eminently clear to me that very few Belgian children asked to take their lives...but requests did come in from parents who were emotionally exhausted after seeing their children fight for their lives for so long!

I am not denigrating parents or challenging their love for their children, nor ignoring the difficulty in caring for a loved one with a disabling condition or terminal illness. But it seems to me that if a child is fighting for their life, shouldn't parents do everything in their power to keep them alive until God decides it is time for them to pass on. Isn't that the right thing to do?

And a word to the readers of EP. Do not be misled or lulled into a state of false security. If these things can happen in Europe they can happen here. Stay alert and speak out. The taking of a life does no one honor. And that applies to anyone who depends on others to care for them, especially our children who are the lifeblood of civilization. The thought of doing less is both depressing and ominous for all of us.

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