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banner Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Children elect right to die in Holland
Susanne Demers, who chose euthanasia after her battle with cancer failed

Dutch Bill would allow children right to elect euthanasia

Euthanasia is not generally associated with terminally-ill children, but tends to be reserved for 'adults'.
However, in Holland a Bill before parliament could give terminally-ill children the right to decide when to die.

Susanne Demers was the only daughter of Dutch couple, Harry and Petra. Susanne was diagnosed with Ewing's tumour, a highly malignant bone cancer, when she was 14. Despite treatment over four years, her condition worsened and she died aged 18. Susanne took the decision to end her life as her condition worsened and death became a matter of time. It was a decision which, argue her parents, allowed her some dignity as her quality of life plummeted. She was able to plan her funeral and her 'goodbye', and finally take control over her body after years of battling cancer.

If she had to die then the way Susanne died was very beautiful. And that has meant we can accept it. As a result of the way she died, we can carry on living

Petra Demers, Susanne's mother

Euthanasia is not uncommon in Holland

Susanne's case is not unusual. In Holland euthanasia, while still technically illegal, is quite commonplace, with an estimated 50 000 people electing to die this way in the last 15 years. The courts in Holland take a lenient view of those seeking euthanasia and those in favour of euthanasia argue that the new Bill would make this common practice legal. In a radical step, however, this new Bill would allow children as young as 12 the right to elect euthanasia, even when their decision goes against that of their parents.

Child rights could go against parent's wishes

Professor Tom Voute, the oncologist who treated Susanne
Despite a second medical opinion being required to prescribe the lethal drugs to children, there is some concern in Holland that the Bill will remove parents' from any decision on a child's life. Professor Voute, Susanne's doctor and an advocate of childrens right to euthanasia, doubts whether parents would go against the wishes of their terminally-ill child.

"It has nothing to do with suicide", states Voute. He argues that sufferers like Susanne have a great will to live and will cling to life while there is still hope. Voute insists that he never broaches the subject of euthanasia with his patients before they raise it themselves. But are there cases when patients took there own lives when they might have recovered? "No, never" argues Prof. Voute. However, critics of euthanasia remain concerned that a Doctor's judgement may come between the parents and their child's life.

Also in this programme, from Latvia, we investigate a paedophile scandal that has rocked the government. Our third story concerns Moroccan women fighting for equal rights in France.

Producer: Lucy Hetherington

Reporter: Ed Stourton

This story was part of Correspondent, 'Our Rights', shown on BBC2 at 18:50 on Saturday 27th May

Click here for transcripts

Susanne and the decision to elect euthanasia
Doctor's views, and Holland's policy toward, Euthanasia
See also:

26 May 00 | Correspondent
Latvian orphans bought for sex
26 May 00 | Correspondent
France denies Moroccan women basic rights
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