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Monday, February 24, 2014

Euthanasia and Foreign Law

 At The Volokh Conspiracy blog, law professor Eugene Kontorovich writes:
Belgium has just passed a law allowing euthanasia for children. The Low Countries allow for suicide and doctor-assisted suicide, but Brussels is the first to open to door to dealing death to children of any age.
Aside from its inherent significance, Belgium’s move requires us to revisit Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 Supreme Court case that ruled it inherently unconstitutional to apply the death penalty to anyone under 18. European nations had long waged a moral campaign against America’s allowance of the death penalty for 16-18 year olds, which they called barbaric and savage. After all, minors are not really responsible for their actions. America was labelled a human rights violator, an international outlier.
Belgium’s law shows the folly of basing constitutional decisions on the practice of other countries: though we all eat at McDonalds, American and Belgian notions of decency are fundamentally different. In American, an age-unlimited euthanasia law would be unthinkable, in Belgium it apparently has 75 percent popular support. American intellectual elites became uncomfortable being the only Western nation with a juvenile death penalty; the Belgians do not blush at standing out.
Roper was wrong to look across the seas, and the campaigners against the 16-18 year old death penalty were wrong to accept the conceit of European moral superiority and American ugliness. But to the extent that Roper did base its decision on a theoretically unified consensus about juvenile responsibility, Belgium’s action, which may be followed by other northern European countries, gives an occasion to overrule it.