Dhe government in the Netherlands is paving the way for euthanasia for terminally ill young children, which pediatricians have been demanding for years. As the government in The Hague announced on Friday, the new regulation affects a “small group” of five to ten children under the age of twelve per year, “for whom the possibilities of palliative care are not sufficient to alleviate their suffering”.
The regulation will affect children “who suffer from such a serious illness or disorder that death is inevitable and can be expected in the foreseeable future,” said Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers. Euthanasia is made possible “when the only reasonable alternative for a doctor is to end the child’s desperate and unbearable suffering,” the minister wrote in a letter to Parliament.
The new rule requires the government to amend the existing rules without requiring parliamentary approval. According to the government, the regulation is to be published later this year. An evaluation will then take place a few years after it has come into force.
Up to 16 only with parental consent
The new regulation is not without controversy. It was made after years of debate and met with opposition from, among others, two Christian-leaning parties within Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s governing coalition. It is “a particularly complex issue that deals with very stressful situations,” said Health Minister Kuipers.
Children over the age of 12 can already apply for euthanasia in the Netherlands. Parental consent is required for children up to the age of 16. Euthanasia is also legal in the Netherlands for babies under the age of one – also with parental consent.
With the changes for children between one and twelve years of age, the Netherlands is now catching up with Belgium: In 2014, the neighboring country was the first country in the world to pass a law that allows euthanasia in small children – but only with the consent of the child. Both countries were the first countries in the world to legalize euthanasia in 2002.