Belgium Takes Big Step Towards Legalizing Euthanasia for Children

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 12 2013 9:22 PM

Belgium Takes Big Step Towards Legalizing Euthanasia for Children

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A 'euthanasia kit' available in the 250 Belgian Multipharma's chemist shops.

Photo by ETIENNE ANSOTTE/AFP/Getty Images

Attitudes towards euthanasia are more accepting in Europe than the US, but with a vote by the upper house in Belgium Thursday, the country took a big step towards becoming the first country to allow children of any age to exercise a “right to die.” Euthanasia was legalized in the country in 2002 and is allowed for adults over age 18 in circumstances beyond terminal illness, including cases of “unbearable psychological or physical suffering,” according to the New York Times.

The amended law passed by the Senate would also permit children with “constant and unbearable physical suffering” to avail upon assisted suicide procedures as long as they were equipped “with a capacity of discernment”, the Times reports. Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all allow euthanasia in some form. But, extending the practice to children in Belgium has been a controversial one, particularly among religious groups.

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Despite that opposition, however, according to Agence France Presse, a recent poll shows three quarters of Belgians approve of the new law. In neighboring the Netherlands assisted suicides for children over the age of 12 are permitted, but Belgium would have no age requirement on the practice. Under the new law, children would be required to submit a written request and be aware of implications of their actions. A child’s parents would also need to consent.

Having cleared the Senate, the bill now goes before the country’s House of Representatives, but is expected to pass, according to the Times.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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