Three children were given euthanasia during 2016 and 2017

One striking thing about modern Western societies is how quickly bioethical practices that would once have been shocking quickly become unremarkable. It happened with abortion, it happened with embryo selection, and now it is happening with euthanasia. Last week it emerged that during 2016 and 2017 three children in Belgium were given euthanasia, and the media reaction was one giant shrug. As far as I am aware it has barely been reported outside Christian and pro-life circles.

Pro-lifers who warn against weakening the legal protection offered to all human life are often accused of believing in the supposed “slippery slope fallacy”. But the Belgian experience, over the 16 years since euthanasia was introduced, suggests that logical slippery slopes do exist.

Once you have conceded into law a particular ethical principle – say, “intentional killing is a legitimate treatment option for patients who request it, or whose best interests demand it” – it is very difficult to control the further application of that principle, because of the way the law works, with a high value attached to precedent and equal treatment.

By the internal logic of the pro-euthanasia position, any law or ruling permitting some form of euthanasia carries within it the seeds of its own extension. If someone with a prognosis of six months is eligible, why not someone with a prognosis of nine months?

If someone who wants to die because of unbearable physical pain, why not someone with unbearable existential pain? And so on.

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