Belgium Senate approves bill to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children


This picture taken in April 2005 shows a euthanasia kit available in Belgian pharmacies for general practitioners who want to practise euthanasia at patients' homes. Now patients in the Netherlands will have access to a specialised mobile euthanasia unit it they satisfy strict criteria.



Belgium's Senate voted on Thursday to extend its 2002 euthanasia law to terminally ill children.

The Senate voted 50-17 in favor of making the change to the legislation, which is opposed by religious leaders in the country.

Under the amended law, euthanasia would become legal for children afflicted with "constant and unbearable physical suffering" and equipped "with a capacity of discernment."

During public debates before the vote, religious leaders condemned the move as entering "a logic that leads to the destruction of society’s foundations."

The bill will now go before the Lower House of Parliament, where it is expected to be approved.

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Current estimates show that 10 to 15 terminally ill Belgian children a year would opt for euthanasia.

Belgium passed a law decriminalizing euthanasia for terminally ill adults over the age of 18 in 2002.

Once passed, this latest measure would make Belgium the first country to remove any age limit to legal euthanasia.

But it also stipulates several caveats on euthanasia, including that the patient must be conscious of their decision and understand the meaning of euthanasia, the request must be approved by the child's parents and medical team, the child's illness must be terminal, and they must be in great pain with no treatment available to alleviate their distress.