Dutch docs call for child euthanasia to be legalised

Children under the age of twelve should be allowed to request euthanasia, according to doctors in the Netherlands.

In a statement released last week, the Dutch Paediatric Association called for the current age limit for euthanasia to be lowered from twelve years old.

They claimed that young children are able to understand the consequences of such a decision.


Professor of paediatrics Eduard Verhagen, a member of the group’s ethics committee, said: “Each child’s ability to ask to die should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis”.

Under the country’s current law, euthanasia is not allowed for under-twelves, and between the ages of 12 and 16 parents must approve the practice.

Prof Verhagen said that if a child under twelve requests euthanasia, paediatricians are “powerless”, and that it is “time to address this problem”.

No improvement

Since euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002, one twelve-year-old and four other children aged between 16 and 17 have been euthanised, Prof Verhagen said.

In 2013, 4,829 people across the country were euthanised – three times the number in 2002.

Under the current law, the patient’s suffering must be unbearable with no prospect of improvement, and the doctor and patient must discuss other possible options.

Westminster vote

At Westminster, Labour MP Rob Marris is set to introduce an assisted suicide Bill in the coming weeks.

MPs will vote on the issue on 11 September.

Marris, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, acknowledged “the prospects of getting the law changed are difficult without official Government support”.

Downing Street made clear that the Bill would not be given Government support, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman saying he was “concerned that legislation may push people into things they do not actually want for themselves”.

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