Health

Belgian Lawmakers One Step Closer To Legalizing Euthanasia For Children

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Belgium, one of the few countries that allows euthanasia, came one step closer to granting the right to euthanasia to terminally ill children on Wednesday.

Belgium’s parliamentary committee voted 13-4 in favor of the law, which political analysts believe will eventually pass a vote in the full parliament.

"This is an important step, not just for the minors themselves but also for the doctors who are confronted with such situations," Jean-Jacques De Gucht, a senator and member of the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats, who supports the measure, told The Guardian.

Earlier this month, 16 pediatricians sent an open letter to two national newspapers demanding that the practice be extended to children.

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"Doctors do terminate lives of children as well as adults," Gerland van Berlaer, of Brussels' Free University, told CNN. "But today it's done in a gray zone or in the dark because it's illegal. And this means that there's a lot of room to do things the wrong way."

One safeguard to the law includes that parents must approve their child’s decision to die before it is granted. It also requires an evaluation by a psychologist to decide if the child is competent to make such a decision.

The Netherlands already allows children as young as 12 the right to voluntary euthanasia with parental consent. Only five child cases have been recorded since euthanasia was legalized in 2002.

"They sometimes say that age limits are arbitrary, but trying to judge whether a minor is able to make such a decision is even more arbitrary," said Els Van Hoof, a senator, of the Flemish Christian Democrats.

Sources: The Guardian, CNN