Belgium allows euthanasia for terminally ill children

(Photo: Michael & Christa Richert)

Belgium's Parliament has today voted in favour of allowing terminally ill children to have the option of euthanasia.

The bill to remove the age limit on euthanasia was passed by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.

Terminally ill children who are experiencing "unbearable physical suffering" and with no available treatment to alleviate their distress will be able to choose euthanasia.

Conditions attached to the law stipulate that they must also be conscious of their decision and have the approval of a medical team and their parents.

Opponents have argued that children in such circumstances are not capable of making such a difficult decision about whether to end their life.

Reuters news agency reported that a man in the public gallery shouted out "murderers" in French when the vote was passed.

The Church has also spoken out against changing the law.

According to the BBC, Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said at a prayer vigil last week: "The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they've become able to decide that someone should make them die."

The bill will become law when it is signed by the king, making Belgium the first country in the world to allow euthanasia for children.

It comes 12 years after Belgium first legalised euthanasia and brings it closer to the neighbouring Netherlands, where terminally ill children over the age of 12 can consider euthanasia with the permission of their parents.