Brussels, Belgium (4E) – The Belgian parliament on Thursday passed a bill allowing euthanasia on terminally ill children suffering pain.
Belgian lawmakers voted 86-44 to amend the 2002 euthanasia law by setting no age limit for the procedure. The new law makes Belgium the first country to have no age limit for euthanasia. Neighboring Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia for adults or children age 12 and upwards.
The Belgian law has four requirements before euthanasia is done on children. The child should be terminally ill, should be in great pain and should make the request for euthanasia. Fourthly, parents, doctors and psychiatrists should agree to the request.
Protesters lobbied against the passage of the bill and lawmakers were divided over the issue. Church leaders opposed the bill claiming it is immoral.
Last week, 160 pediatricians released an open letter opposing the law on grounds that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain. They also warned that vulnerable children could be put at risk and that a child cannot really be expected to make such a difficult choice.
Supporters of the legislation argue that only an extremely small number of children would be affected by the law and they would probably be in their teens.