Terminally-ill children become youngest ever to be euthanised, aged nine and 11

Belgium has world’s only law allowing children in 'unbearable suffering' to end their own lives

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 07 August 2018 17:47 BST
Terminally-ill children become youngest ever to be euthanised, aged nine and 11

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Two children, aged nine and 11, have become the youngest ever to be euthanised, according to a report.

They were given lethal injections in Belgium, which has the world’s only law allowing terminally ill children in “unbearable suffering” to end their own lives.

Their deaths, which occurred between 2016 and 2017, were revealed in a July report from the CFCEE; the commission that regulates euthanasia in the country.

It detailed how Belgian doctors had given lethal injections to three children over the two-year period, including to one 17-year-old who was suffering muscular dystrophy.

The nine-year-old, who had a brain tumour, and the 11-year-old, who was suffering from cystic fibrosis, were the first children under 12 to be euthanised anywhere, a member of the CFCEE told The Washington Post.

Already one of the most permissive country's in the world regarding euthanasia, Belgium liberalised its law even further in 2014, giving doctors the authority to terminate a child's life if they request it.

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Doctors must first ensure that a child is "in a hopeless medical situation of constant and unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and which will cause death in the short term".

The juvenile must make their wish known in writing, before being examined by child psychiatrists to ensure they are intelligent enough to make the decision and are "not influenced by a third party". Parents can overrule the child's wishes.

Once euthanasia has occurred - for a child or adult - a commission examines the case to review if everything was done correctly.

"I saw mental and physical suffering so overwhelming that I thought we did a good thing," Luc Proot, a CFCEE member, told the newspaper regarding the cases of the three children.

Dignity in Dying, a UK charity campaigning for the legalisation of euthanasia, told The Independent it would not campaign to allow children to take their own lives.

"The law change that Dignity in Dying campaigns for would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication that a person would self-administer." a spokesperson said.

"We do not campaign for a law like the one that operates in Belgium."

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