Belgium extends "right-to-die" to terminally ill children
By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium became the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age on Thursday when its lower house of parliament passed new "right-to-die" legislation by a large majority.
The law goes beyond Dutch legislation that set a minimum age of 12 for children judged mature enough to decide to end their lives. It has popular support in Belgium, where adult euthanasia became legal in 2002.
In the Chamber of Representatives, 86 lawmakers voted in favor, 44 against and 12 abstained. Most opposition parties supported it, as well as the governing socialists and liberals.
One man in the public gallery shouted "murderers" in French when the vote was passed.
The Christian Democrats, although members of Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo's coalition, voted against. Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders denounced the law ahead of the vote in a rare joint declaration and Catholic bishops have led days of prayer and fasting against it.
"This is not about lethal injections for children. This is about terminally ill children, whose death is imminent and who suffer greatly," said Carina Van Cauter, a lawmaker for the Flemish Liberal Democrats who back the law.
"There are clear checks and balances in the law to prevent abuse," she said of the legislation, which now has to pass the largely symbolic stage of being signed by the country's monarch.
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