Saturday 24 October 2020

Coalition agrees to support ‘active termination of life’ for younger children

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Health minister Hugo de Jonge has told MPs in a briefing that work is progressing on plans to make it possible to help terminally sick children aged between one and 12 to die, in limited circumstances.

The recommendation was made in a report by experts last year, who found that a small group of children may be suffering because doctors are afraid of the consequences of actions that could hasten their deaths.

De Jonge said that he wants to ensure there are ‘more legal guarantees for doctors’ who take the decision to end the life of a child, as well as transparency for healthcare staff and parents, and protection for the rights of children.

The measure, he said, is aimed at the very small group of terminally ill children who are suffering unbearably and for whom palliative care is inadequate. The measure would only apply to children who would die in the short term, he said.

De Jonge said he plans to work on the issue in the coming period together with professionals and legal experts.

The report by experts at the medical teaching hospitals of Groningen, Rotterdam and Amsterdam surveyed 72 doctors and found the vast majority thought it was acceptable to actively end the lives of children under 12 if they are suffering acutely, at their parents’ request. A new law should be brought in to allow this, the report said.

Although in Belgium euthanasia laws were extended to include all children in 2014, in the Netherlands, babies of under one who are severely ill can be helped to die under LZALP laws and the so-called Groningen protocol.

Children from 12 to 15 can ask for help to die under Dutch euthanasia laws, if their parents agree, and young adults of 16-17 can request euthanasia but must inform their parents.

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