Terminally ill children in Belgium might soon have the right to choose death. The country's Federal Parliament is debating the sensitive issue of euthanasia.
Currently, only the Netherlands allows doctors to perform euthanasia on some children, if the doctors obey a set of medical guidelines called the "Groningen Protocol."
The bill in Belgium would create guidelines for doctors to decide if a child is mature enough to make the decision and if a child's health is hopeless enough for euthanasia.
The country's lawmakers have reportedly agreed to support the legislation, notes PressEurop.eu.
The bill would also allow euthanasia for people suffering from Alzheimer's and other diseases leading to advanced dementia, even though they might not be of sound mind.
"The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to," said Socialist party leader, Thierry Giet, after the bill was introduced in December, reported AFP.
There has been months of testimony by medical experts, doctors, clergy members and others. In Belgium, it is illegal to drive, marry, vote or drink liquor until age 18.
"We all know that euthanasia is already practiced on children. Yes, active euthanasia," said Peter Deconinck, president of the Belgian medical ethics organization Reflectiegroep Biomedische Ethiek, which supports the proposed law.
"We expressed our strong reservations regarding the decriminalization of euthanasia as early as 2002," said Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard. "First and foremost because we have excellent palliative care available today, and because we can rely on sedation, to the extent strictly necessary."
The Christian Democrats party might vote against the law, but New Flemish Alliance party members might support the bill, which was introduced by the Socialist party.