The Belgian Federal Parliament is reportedly about to expand its controversial “right to die” policies to include access to euthanasia for some gravely ill children.
A consensus among members of the legislative body has reportedly formed in support of legislation to allow children to choose to undergo euthanasia in certain dire cases, according to a report in the Belgian daily newspaper Der Morgen, as translated by the Paris-based news agency Presseurop.
If child euthanasia is legalized in Belgium, the country would become the first in the developed world to have a law on the books allowing the practice, although the Netherlands has since 2005 not prosecuted doctors who perform euthanasia on some minors as long as the doctors act in accordance with a set of medical guidelines dubbed the Groningen Protocol.
Belgium became the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalize euthanasia in 2002, but the statute currently extends only to people 18 or older.
The bill, introduced by the Socialist party in December, would lay out guidelines for doctors to decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a child is mature enough to make the decision to end his or her own life, as well as whether a child’s health is grave and hopeless enough to warrant euthanasia.
“The idea is to update the law to take better account of dramatic situations and extremely harrowing cases we must find a response to,” Socialist party leader Thierry Giet said shortly after the bill was introduced, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Belgian Senate’s Committee on Social Affairs is slated to take up the divisive proposal, which has met with strong opposition from the nation’s influential Catholic clergy and members of the centrist Christian Democrats political party, on Wednesday.