[QODLink]
Europe

Belgian lawmakers pass child-euthanasia bill

Legislators overwhelmingly approve law giving terminally ill children the right to die.

Last updated: 14 Feb 2014 05:24
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Protests over the child-euthanasia legislation have gripped Belgium for days [Reuters]

Belgian lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the country's euthanasia law to children under 18.

The 86-44 vote on Thursday in the House of Representatives, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate last December.

The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to request to be put to death if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist find they are conscious of what their choice signifies.

Legislators have clashed sharply over the bill. Proponents view it as a question of mercy, while critics say the bill has been rushed and lacks a medical rationale.

"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.

Sonja Becq, a Christian Democrat, denounced the bill, saying modern-day science is capable of relieving pain in very sick children until their illness runs its natural course.

"We cannot accept that euthanasia be presented as a 'happy ending'," she said.

Church protesting

Protests over the child-euthanasia legislation have gripped Belgium for days.

The Catholic church staged "a day of fasting and prayer" in protest earlier this month, and about 160 pediatricians on Wednesday petitioned lawmakers to postpone the vote on the grounds that it was ill-prepared and unnecessary.

"Pain can be eased nowadays; there's been huge progress in palliative care," Nadine Francotte, a cancer specialist in the city of Liege, told the AFP news agency.

But Dominique Lossignol, a palliative specialist at the Bordet cancer clinic in Brussels, said that doctors "do not have control over all types of pain, either physical or moral".

"Children are capable of taking such a decision," he said.

A public survey found 75 percent of Belgians supported extending the euthanasia law to children.

The law will go into effect when signed by Belgium's monarch, King Philippe. The king was not expected to oppose the measure.

311

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.