Belgium close to agreeing euthanasia for children

Belgium close to agreeing euthanasia for children
Belgium's Senate members vote during a session of the Senate's justice and social affairs commission on the expansion of the euthanasia law for minors, at the federal parliament in Brussels

BRUSSELS - Belgium, one of only a few countries to allow euthanasia, on Wednesday moved a step closer to extending mercy-killing to terminally-ill children.

A proposed draft bill to extend the practice some experts say already takes place outside the law was approved by the Senate's justice and social affairs committee after months of discussion held alongside a heated public debate.

The committee's approval enables the draft bill to be put to the vote in the two houses of parliament in the coming months.

The proposed legislation would allow the euthanasia of terminally-ill minors so long as they are judged capable of deciding for themselves and are in pain that is "unbearable and cannot be alleviated".

They would be advised by a medical team and their parents' approval would be required.

A recent poll shows three quarters of Belgians approving the move.

Earlier this month, 16 paediatricians called on lawmakers to approve the legislation.

"Why deprive minors of this last possibility," they said in an open letter carried in the press, arguing that under-18s were able to make an informed and mature decision when facing death.

"Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people."

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