Belgium extends right to die to minors

Friday, February 14, 2014

Passed 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions following months of debate, the controversial bill follows a favorable vote by the Belgian Senate in December.

Passed 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions following months of debate, the controversial bill follows a favorable vote by the Belgian Senate in December.

BRUSSELS - Belgian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favour of a bill to extend the euthanasia laws to children under 18, the Parliament said on its official Twitter account.

Passed 86 to 44 with 12 abstentions following months of debate, the controversial bill follows a favorable vote by the Belgian Senate in December.

Despite a wide support, the bill is highly criticized too. Whereas those backing the controversial move assert that it would help in the case of terminally ill children, preventing unnecessary and prolonged suffering, opponents claim that it would add to the stress and pain of families at a difficult time.

Whether children have the capacity to make such a decision on their own is another issue that requires careful consideration.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for adults in "constant and unbearable physical or mental suffering that cannot be alleviated". Minors were excluded from the legislation.

The new bill, if signed into law by King Philippe, would extend the right to die to children under 18, albeit under strict conditions. A child would need to be examined by a child psychologist or psychiatrist first to ensure that he or she understands what euthanasia means and is capable of making the decision. Consent of parents or guardians is also required.

The bill increases the number of European countries where euthanasia is legal for children to two.

The Netherlands allows children over 12 to be euthanized under parental consent. Only five children have requested euthanasia since the law entered into effect in 2002.

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