Last February, Belgium became the first country in the world to authorise euthanasia for minors without an age limit. Only the Netherlands had a comparable law with a slight difference: it applied solely to minors aged 12 years and over. However, this condition might no longer continue.
In fact, Dutch paediatricians have just put forward a proposal: “the legalisation of euthanasia for children under 12 years of age suffering considerably and with no hope of improvement“. More precisely, this proposal was made within the scope of the Ethics and Rights Commission of the Dutch Paediatrics Association, Nederlandse Verniging voor Kindergeneeskunde. And from September onwards, debates could be held in an endeavour to reach an agreement.
Euthanasia was legalised in this country in 2001. Extension of the law to children over 12 years of age was authorised in 2004. Finally, the euthanasia of newborn babies has been authorised.
Professor Verhagen justifies this proposal as follows: “There is a gap between these two age categories“, he explained. “These are extremely exceptional cases, children who are dying and whose parents should be given the option to allow their child to die with dignity. As a paediatrician, I cannot explain why this right applies to everyone apart from children between 1 and 12 years of age“.
According to the Dutch Ministry for Health, 1,800 patients were given euthanasia in the Netherlands in 2008. This figure more than doubled in 2012, exceeding 4188.