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Dutch move towards euthanasia for under-12s

THE HAGUE — The Netherlands moved towards making euthanasia legal for terminally-ill children aged between one and 12 after the coalition government on Tuesday (Oct 13) backed the move.

Euthanasia is currently legal for children older than 12 who can give their consent, and for babies up to a year old with their parents' consent.

Euthanasia is currently legal for children older than 12 who can give their consent, and for babies up to a year old with their parents' consent.

THE HAGUE — The Netherlands moved towards making euthanasia legal for terminally-ill children aged between one and 12 after the coalition government on Tuesday (Oct 13) backed the move.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said he would now draft regulations for the practice, after a study by experts showed some children were suffering "hopelessly".

Euthanasia is currently legal for children older than 12 who can give their consent, and for babies up to a year old with their parents' consent.

But there is no legal provision for children in between, due to debate among Dutch authorities about whether minors of those ages were capable of making the decision.

Mr De Jonge said a study conducted by medical experts, ordered by his ministry, showed that around five to 10 children a year would be involved by the rule change.

"The study shows that 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," Mr De Jonge said in a letter to the Dutch Parliament.

Ministers in Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition government finally agreed on the step on Tuesday after months of disagreement, with strong opposition from Christian parties.

Current laws would not need to be changed, but doctors would be exempted from prosecution for carrying out an approved euthanasia on a suffering child, Mr De Jonge said.

The Dutch Parliament is set to again discuss the matter during a debate Thursday, with the Dutch government expected to implement the regulation within the next few months.

The Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium became the first countries in the world to legalise euthanasia in 2002.

Belgium in 2014 was the first country to allow for voluntary child euthanasia, followed by the Netherlands. AFP

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