Belgium to debate giving children right to euthanasia

Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:30pm EST
 
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian lawmakers will on Wednesday vote on whether to support a proposed new bill to give extremely sick children the right to euthanasia, a move certain to fan the divisive debate on the practice worldwide.

The new bill would make Belgium the first country to remove the age limit for the procedure - though it would insist parents have a role in their child's decision to die.

"We want to provide the freedom of choice, also to minors who are able to make up their own mind," said one of the bill's backers, Jean-Jacques De Gucht, from the Flemish liberals, who form part of the ruling coalition.

Tomorrow's senate panel will vote whether to support the bill allowing the killing of a young patient suffering from an extreme condition, and pass the legislation on to parliament.

The committee will not have the power to make the bill law. But the panel's backing would be an important move in that direction as the committee shares the same political makeup as the broader parliament.

Backers say the law would give a merciful way out for youngsters suffering from debilitating conditions, and legalize a practice that they say is already going on in secret.

"Imagine a cancer or leukemia patient, a child whom we have already treated for eight years and in which we reach a stage where we know there is nothing more that we can do to cure him," said Marc Cosyns, lecturer of medical ethics at Ghent University.

"MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH"   Continued...