Friday, February 14, 2014

Belgium allows euthanasia for children

Belgium has extended the country's euthanasia law to allow terminally ill people under the age of 18 the right to die.

The lower house of the Belgian parliament on Thursday approved the extension by a large majority. The country already allows people aged 18 or older to decide to end their lives.

Under the new law children need to meet certain conditions to be allowed to die.

They must be in a state of unbearable suffering and found by a psychiatrist or psychologist to be aware of what their choice signifies. Also, parents and a team of doctors must approve of the child's decision.

The Netherlands already permits people aged 12 or older to receive euthanasia.

But the new law in Belgium is the world's first to allow euthanasia for people of any age.

Belgium's religious clergy strongly opposes the extension of the euthanasia law. It cites ethical considerations.

Many medical officials, including pediatric doctors, in the country are also critical. They say criteria for assessing children's ability to make these decisions are ambiguous.