THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Netherlands will widen its existing euthanasia regulations to include the possibility of doctor-assisted death for terminally ill children between one and twelve years old, the Dutch government said on Friday.
The new rules would apply to an estimated group of around 5 to 10 children per year, who suffer unbearably from their disease, have no hope of improvement and for whom palliative care cannot bring relief, the government said.
“The end of life for this group is the only reasonable alternative to the child’s unbearable and hopeless suffering,” it said in a statement.
In 2002, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia under strict conditions. All cases of euthanasia must be reported to medical review boards.
The law already provided possibilities for euthanasia involving terminally ill babies until their first birthday and for children aged older than 12.
In 2022, only one instance of euthanasia for a minor between 12 and 16 years old was reported, figures from regional euthanasia review boards show.
The Netherlands would not be the first to allow doctor-assisted death for children of all ages. Belgium has allowed it since 2014.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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