Belguim to allow euthanasia among children suffering from terminal conditions

Children suffering from terminal conditions may be allowed to end their lives through euthanasia as part of Belgium's newly-extended law, The Times reports.

Euthanasia has been legal for adults in Belgium for the past 11 years and the parliament has now extended the law to terminally ill minors faced with unbearable physical suffering.

Despite receiving the support of three-quarters of Belgians in opinion polls, the proposal has raised intense opposition from doctors. Christians, Jews and Muslims currently residing in Belgium. Earlier this week, 160 Belgian pediatricians wrote to members of parliament asking them to "reflect" and not rush the law, stressing the fact that minors are unable to provide mature discernment to choose euthanasia.

"There is too much haste and too little fundamental debate on a subject that is very literally a matter of life and death," said Mia de Schamphelaere, a Christian Democrat senator whose party opposes the law. In a joint statement last year, Belgium's Christians, Muslims and Jews expressed their disappointment and sadness at the proposal.

Others, however, argue that any further wait would be cruel for those currently suffering. 

"The proposal is too important to delay. The medical reality is that there is no age limit for suffering and we want to provide an answer," said Jean-Jacques De Gucht, a Flemish liberal MP and prominent supporter of the law.

According to reports, there were approximately 1,432 adults who were medically killed in Belgium in 2012. Euthanasia is also legal in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. As of late, only the Dutch allow euthanasia to be administered to children.

"Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and mental 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," according to a statement by pediatricians who support euthanasia among minors. 

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