A parliamentary committee is reviewing euthanasia laws in Australia, and one group is fighting for children to be able to kill themselves. The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties wants Australia to follow the Netherlands and Belgium’s example, despite the numerous disturbing examples of how the European countries have abused euthanasia.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Cope, president of the group, said that minor children should be eligible for euthanasia as well as adults. “We would define such a mature minor as a child over 12 years of age who … has a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed,” Cope said, adding, “However, we do recognise that children are entitled to extra protection when making their decision.”
The safeguards, Cope said, should include being examined by a psychiatrist, a doctor with “specific qualifications and experience in dealing with children,” and finally, a ban on euthanasia requests based solely on psychiatric conditions.
He further argued that euthanasia needs to be legalized in Australia, because it’s already happening anyway. “[A]t present, it is conducted without regulation,” he claimed. This argument echoes the justification made by Belgian politicians for legalizing child euthanasia; it was argued that it was happening already, so it may as well be legal — an odd and weak argument, to be sure.
Leaving aside the issue of euthanasia overall, it’s especially concerning for children, even those who are — as Cope said — over 12 years old. A teenager’s brain is not fully developed yet, and specifically, in the regions responsible for decision-making and rational thought. As the University of Rochester explains, “In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not always at the same rate. That’s why when teens have overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”
And it is exactly for this reason that teenagers so frequently act impulsively and make poor decisions; their brains are literally incapable of weighing consequences of their actions and thinking long-term the way an adult brain can. Legally, a teenager cannot even make his or her own medical decisions — yet euthanasia advocates think these are the people who should be able to choose to die.
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