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Terminally Ill Child Becomes First Minor In Belgium To Have Assisted Death

September 17, 2016

A terminally ill youngster has become the first child to be euthanised in Belgium since age restrictions on such mercy killings in the country were lifted in 2014.

The head of the national committee for euthanasia confirmed the first case was reported to him by a local doctor last week.

While he would not give any details about the minor, he described it as an exceptional case of a child with a terminal illness, according to newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.

Belgium is the only country that allows minors of any age to choose euthanasia.

They must prove they have a rational decision-making capacity and be in the final stages of a terminal illness.

Wim Distelmans, who chairs Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia said: “Fortunately there are very few children who are considered (for euthanasia) but that does not mean we should refuse them the right to a dignified death.”

Belgium legalised euthanasia in 2002, and two years ago amended the rules to permit doctor-assisted death for minors of any age in a hopeless medical situation.

The parents of the under-18 year olds must give their consent for the assisted killing to go ahead.

The Netherlands also allows mercy killings for children, but only for those aged over 12.

The change was made in Belgian law in 2014 after a heated debate to offer the possibility of euthanasia to children “in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term.”

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of patients being euthanised in Belgium rose nearly eight-fold to a total number of 8,752 cases, according to records of the national euthanasia control committee.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg allow euthanasia.

In America the US states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Montana permit assisted dying and Canada passed laws allowing doctor-assisted dying in June of this year.

Switzerland allows it as long as the person assisting is acting ‘unselfishly.’

Both active euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.

Euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder and could warrant a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment while assisted suicide is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

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