Belgian lawmakers clash on extending euthanasia law to children

Lawmakers in Belgium’s house argued Thursday over a measure — expected to pass — that would extend the right to die to children, the Associated Press reports. Belgium is one of the few countries where assisted suicide is legal; if the law is extended, it would apply to only some teenagers who are in pain and near death, who show a “capacity for discernment” to a psychiatrist and psychologist, and who have parental consent.

The words of some of the Belgian House members, according to the AP:

“Our responsibility is to allow everybody to live, but also to die, in dignity,” said Karine Lalieux, a Socialist member of the House of Representatives who favors extending Belgium’s 2002 euthanasia law to minors under 18, with the added conditions that their parents approve and they understand what the decision means.

Sonja Becq, a Christian Democratic colleague, denounced the potential change, saying modern-day science is capable of relieving pain in very sick children until their illnesses runs their natural course.

“We cannot accept that euthanasia be presented as a ‘happy ending’,” she said. Belgium sets legal limits on who can legally acquire cigarettes and alcohol, she said — so why not for euthanasia?

The country’s Senate passed the amendment Dec. 12; King Philippe must sign onto the bill. One opinion poll found 75 percent of Belgians in favor of the amendment, the AP reported.

While  the states of Oregon, Washington and Montana have legalized some physician-assisted suicide, only a few countries allow euthanasia or assisted suicide. See what their laws say here:

Terri Rupar is The Post's national digital projects editor.

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Terri Rupar and Adam Goldman · February 10, 2014

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