The government of the Netherlands has announced it will allow the euthanisation of terminally ill children between the ages of one and 12.
“There is a need for active termination of life among doctors and parents of incurably ill children, who are suffering hopelessly and unbearably and will die within the foreseeable future,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge wrote in an October 13 letter to parliament.
Euthanasia is already legal in the Netherlands for infants under one year, with parental consent, and of minors 12-15 with their consent and that of their parents. Voluntary euthanasia is available to those aged 16-17 without parental consent.
The health minister also emphasised “the great importance of the best possible care for this group of terminally ill children”.
Those with “unbearable and endless suffering” would be eligible for euthanasia; their parents would have to consent, as would two doctors.
Children between 1 and 12 who have such conditions may currently be given palliative care, or their nutrition may be withheld.
Rather than a law change, doctors who euthanise patients aged 1-12 will be exempted from prosecution, Mr De Jonge stated.
The government expect between five and 10 children a year to be euthanised under the new rule.