Child gets voice in euthanasia

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The Belgian parliament is debating Wednesday afternoon whether to drop the age limit for an euthanasia request. Young teens are rarely euthanized.In the Netherlands terminally ill children from ages 12 and up may request euthanasia.

Up to 16 years of age, they also need the consent of parents or guardian and a physician. The age limit is the same as the legal age limit when minors get an equal say in their treatment. If child and parents/guardian disagree, the physician gets the final say. Patients older than 18 may request euthanasia in Belgium. If the new legislation is approved, Belgium will drop the age limit. All mentally competent patients, no matter their age, will be able to submit a request for euthanasia. Up to 18 they will still need the consent of their parents. A psychologist or psychiatrist will need to determine whether the child is capable of assessing its own situation. 'If the proposal is accepted, it means Belgium will henceforth take into account that one 13-year-old is more grownup than another,' said Dutch Association for Voluntary End of Life director, Petra de Jong. She points out that many long-term ill children are often more grownup than "real" grownups. The Netherlands has only seen five cases of children being euthanized between 2002 and 2012. One concerned a 12-year-old, the other four concerned 16 and 17-year-olds. 'Children are more likely to accept things for what they are,' said Suzanne van de Vathorst, professor of "Quality of the final phase of life and death" at the University of Amsterdam. Vathorst does not anticipate Belgian practices to be any different from the Netherlands if the new law passes. 'assessment of children's mental competence will most likely boil down to children of ages 12 and older, with a few exceptions.'