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Belgium

Euthanasia law extended to children

Dying minors can choose when to go

  • Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults, at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, as visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests.  (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

    Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults, at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, as visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

  • Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

    Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

  • Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

    Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

  • Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo looks up before Belgian politicians vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country, but it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

    Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo looks up before Belgian politicians vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country, but it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

  • Journalists look at the electronic voting board as Belgian politicians vote in favour of the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014. Belgium, one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, takes the unprecedented step of abolishing age restrictions on who can ask to be put to death, extending the right to children. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of pediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

    Journalists look at the electronic voting board as Belgian politicians vote in favour of the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014. Belgium, one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, takes the unprecedented step of abolishing age restrictions on who can ask to be put to death, extending the right to children. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of pediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

  • Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults, at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, as visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests.  (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
  • Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
  • Visitors look down from the balcony onto the plenary room, as Belgian politicians gather to vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
  • Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo looks up before Belgian politicians vote the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014, extending to children a legal option already possessed by the country's adults.  The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country, but it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of paediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
  • Journalists look at the electronic voting board as Belgian politicians vote in favour of the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014. Belgium, one of the very few countries where euthanasia is legal, takes the unprecedented step of abolishing age restrictions on who can ask to be put to death, extending the right to children. The legislation appears to have wide support in the largely liberal country. But it has also aroused intense opposition from foes, including a list of pediatricians, and everyday people who have staged street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

Belgian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly yesterday to extend the country’s euthanasia law to children under 18.

The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to ask to be put to death by their doctor if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist certifies they are conscious of what their choice signifies.

It has wide public support but was opposed by some pediatricians and the country’s Roman Catholic clergy. As House of Representative members cast their ballots and an electronic tally board lit up with enough green lights to indicate the measure would carry, a lone protester in the chamber shouted “assassins!”

Hans Bonte, a Socialist, said no member of the House hopes the law will ever be made use of. But he said all Belgians, including minors, deserve the right to “bid farewell to life in humane circumstances” without having to fear they were breaking the law.

The 86-44 vote in the House, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate in December.

Laurent Louis, an independent House member who opposed the legislation, said the majority of his colleagues were violating the natural order.

“A child is to be nurtured and protected, all the way to the end, whatever happens,” Louis said. “You don’t kill it.”

Another House member, Catherine Fonck, said the legislation was riddled with flaws and didn’t address the possibility that one parent may favor euthanasia while the other is opposed.

All 13 proposed amendments seeking changes in the bill were defeated.

Daniel Bacquelaine, a physician and leader of the centrist Reform Movement, said it is wrong to think life and death questions should be reserved for adults. He stressed that the law imposed no obligations, and that no child, family or doctor would be forced to apply it.

The law will go into effect when signed by King Philippe. The Belgian monarch is not expected to oppose the measure, said Jean-Jacques De Gucht, a co-sponsor.

Belgium’s euthanasia law, passed in 2002, previously applied only to legal adults. The neighboring Netherlands allows euthanasia for children as young as 12, provided their families agree.

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