Belgium Becomes First Country to Grant Terminally Ill Children 'Right to Die'
Belgium Becomes First Country to Grant Terminally Ill Children 'Right to Die'REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

Belgium became the world's first country to allow terminally ill children the "right to die." A new legislation was passed on Thursday (13 February 2014) that granted euthanasia for terminally ill children regardless of age. In 2002, the country had legalized euthanasia for 18 years and above, to relieve them from pain and sufferings.

Countries that allow euthanasia other than Belgium are the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The new law went beyond the Netherlands legislation, which allows euthanasia for children above 12 years and judges them mature enough to take the decision.

"Our responsibility is to allow everybody to live, but also to die, in dignity," The Washington Post quoted Karine Lalieux, a Socialist member of the House of Representatives. She added that she favors the euthanasia law to children under conditions that they understand what it means ending their lives and parents approve their decision. 

In the Chamber of Representatives, 86 legislators voted in favor of the law, 44 voted against it and 12 withdrew. Most governing liberals, socialists and opposition parties supported it.

"This is not about lethal injections for children. This is about terminally ill children, whose death is imminent and who suffer greatly," said Carina Van Cauter, a Flemish Liberal Democrats lawmaker, according to Reuters. 

Opponents stated that when minors are restricted from many legal rights until they reach 18 years of age, they should not be given such responsibility.

"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, Belgium, added. 

The law specifies that children seeking "right to die" must be terminally ill and not just in a state of intolerable suffering.