Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions. The king is expected the sign the bill into law, making Belgium the first country to remove any age limit on the practice. In the Netherlands, Belgium's northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over 12 with parental consent.

Adult euthanasia is already legal in Belgium. A plea for euthanasia can be fulfilled by a doctor if the request is "voluntary and well-considered" and the patient is suffering unbearably with no prospect of improvement.

The new law states a child would have to be terminally ill, face "unbearable physical suffering" and make repeated requests to die before euthanasia is considered. Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to agree before a decision is made.

Protesters have lobbied politicians against the law. A man in the public gallery of Belgium's parliament shouted "murderers" in French when the vote was passed. But opinion polls have suggested broad support for the new law in Belgium, which is mostly Catholic. Church leaders have argued the law is immoral.

"The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they've become able to decide that someone should make them die," Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said at a prayer vigil last week.

Last week 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter against the law, claiming that there was no urgent need for it and that modern medicine is capable of alleviating pain. Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.

What do you think, TA? Is this an appropriate law? Is Belgium going too far?

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If only there was a way when people like doctors, church men or politicians say there is no need for euthanasia in cases of extreme suffering, to give them the same amount of pain and ask them to let us know when that pain should be stopped. If they were not willing to do it, they should then butt out of other people's lives. 

I am fed up of this moral cowardice that is afraid to let people have the right to decide to end their own suffering. Why should a young child not have the right to have their loving parents agree to this humane, albeit heart breaking, request.

The drugs that remove all pain also turns you into a vegitable. It's is very ugly for everyone.

That is what I thought, but still we hear first hand accounts of terminally ill patients describing their suffering. When this news was on UK TV this week, one parent whose son had a rare childhood cancer, described how they had to hold him down as he writhed in pain during the chemotherapy treatments.

I trust doctors and parents enough to leave the decision up to them.

Not that there aren't potential issues, however none of these override the argument of decisions about a person being up to the person concerned (or those entrusted the decisions of a person). I have yet to see an argument with enough weight to override this ideological position.


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