Belgian lawmakers mull voluntary euthanasia for minors

Nov. 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM
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BRUSSELS, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- A to extend the right to request euthanasia to children suffering fatal illnesses cleared a committee in the Belgian Senate.

Senate spokesman Patrick Peremans said the panel voted 13-4 on the bill to allow minors and to adults with dementia to request euthanasia under stringent guidelines, CNN reported.

Belgium's Federal Parliament passed legislation in 2002 allowing voluntary euthanasia for adults.

Dr. Kenneth Chambarae, a member of an end-of-life research group at Brussels' Free University, told CNN the bill under consideration would allow competent minors to request euthanasia if they are suffering unbearable physical pain from a serious physical illness without prospect of improvement. Under the current law, adults can also request it if they are suffering physically or psychologically.

Critics question whether children can make informed decisions about ending their lives but Gerland van Berlaer of Free University told CNN doctors "terminate lives of children as well as adults. But today it's done in a gray zone or in the dark because it's illegal."

Van Berlaer is one of 16 pediatricians who urged in an open letter this month that the practice be extended to minors.

The Netherlands has a law that allows children over age 12 to request euthanasia with parental consent. Since the law took in 2002, CNN said, five children have chosen to die that way.

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