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Netherlands to legalise euthanasia for kids under 12 allowing parents to let terminally ill children die

The Netherlands is set to legalise the euthanasia of terminally ill kids aged between one and 12 – to the consternation of Christian politicians.Changing rules would help “a small group of terminally ill children in agony with no hope, and unbearable suffering,” according to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge.He said there was a “grey area”…

The Netherlands is set to legalise the euthanasia of terminally ill kids aged between one and 12 – to the consternation of Christian politicians.

Changing rules would help “a small group of terminally ill children in agony with no hope, and unbearable suffering,” according to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge.

He said there was a “grey area” between doctors giving palliative sedation to relieve the suffering of youngsters, and actively terminating their lives, reports Dutch News.

The politician told Parliament on Tuesday that terminally ill kids aged from one to 12 will likely be granted access to euthanasia.

The NL Times adds that the legalisation of terminal procedures would affect between five and ten children per year who suffer “as a result in some cases unnecessarily, for a long time, without any prospect of improvement.”

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De Jonge said it was of “great importance” that the ”best possible care” is given for this group of terminally ill children.

A spokesman for the ChristenUnie party told Dutch News: “There is a whole spectrum – we are against euthanasia for children who are not considered mentally competent, but we have nothing against palliative sedation.

“Between them, there are a lot of different possibilities and the question is what the formal proposal will be.

“Actively ending a life is a very difficult and nuanced question and what are the boundaries?”

The BBC reports that the Netherlands’ current laws would not need to be changed in line with the new policy.

However, the health minister said that doctors would be exempt from prosecution for carrying out an approved euthanasia on terminally ill kids in this age range if current laws were extended to include this new age group.

For those children targeted by the new policy, doctors are currently allowed to give palliative care – such as sedation – or withhold nutrition over an extended period of time until they die, explains NL Times.

Worried doctors have described this as “a grey area” and they have been urging greater regulation to clarify treatment in these cases.

But, the government has been told by opposition politicians that it was inappropriate to push through the change less than six months before the next election.

The NL Times writes that there is “likely a majority in Parliament willing to support expanding access to end of life treatment to the age group, which is also supported the association of paediatricians and parental groups.”

Health bosses are still working on the final version of the proposed policy alongside the Public Prosecution Service and professional medical organisations to make the policy clear, the paper adds.

It‘s not known at this stage whether the terminally ill children would have to personally consent to the lethal procedure, or if it is up to parents to make that fatal decision on their behalf.

The medical teaching hospitals of Groningen, Rotterdam and Amsterdam reported that some kids may be suffering because GPs are afraid of the consequences of actions that could hasten their deaths, says Dutch News.

Experts surveyed 72 doctors, and found the “vast majority thought it was acceptable to actively end the lives of children under 12 in acute suffering, at their parents’ request, and that a new law should allow this.

“There were, however, no signs that euthanasia was being carried out with children under 12 in the study of 296 deaths in 2015,” the paper adds.

According to a health ministry report, “there are no indications that there is currently active termination of life and euthanasia is performed on children between one and 12 years old.”

But, “doctors experience a grey area between palliative sedation and active sedation life termination. This leads doctors in some cases to act more cautiously for fear of repercussions.

“There is a need among some of the doctors and parents to have legal options for active termination of life.

“(But), parents experience a taboo on discussing active life termination.”

Currently in the Netherlands, “for children aged 12 to 16, euthanasia is allowed when parents are involved and are in the decision-making process and also agree to the termination of life,” the report adds.

It also points out that “end-of-life decisions other than active life termination, such as stopping life-prolonging treatments are considered normal medical treatment in the Netherlands”.

This is “allowed for all age groups subject to the usual legal requirements rules for medical practice and medical professional standards.

“Palliative sedation according to the guidelines … is permitted when a patient suffers severely … and life expectancy is limited (e.g. adults up to two weeks).”

ONLY DOCTORS GIVE FATAL DOSE

The Netherlands in 2002 became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia.

It can only be performed by physicians who administer fatal drug doses under strict conditions.

These end of life procedures are already legally possible for babies up to one year old, and for kids over the age of 12.

Under Dutch law, people are eligible for euthanasia if they make a considered, voluntary request for it and if their suffering is hopelessly “unbearable.”

Last year there were 6361 cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands – just over four per cent of the country’s total deaths, reports The Guardian.

Of those, 91 per cent were for terminal medical conditions while the remainder involved severe psychiatric illness.

WHAT IS EUTHANASIA?

The term comes from an ancient Greek phrase meaning “good death”.

Euthanasia, sometimes known as mercy killing, is the practice of intentionally ending someone‘s life to relieve their pain and suffering.

Euthanasia is deliberately helping or encouraging someone to take their own life, for example by providing them with medicine to do so.

Euthanasia and dying is a controversial issue – with passionate campaigners on each side of the argument.

People who agree with euthanasia often argue that people should be allowed to die with dignity – and they should be able to decide when and how they die, and potentially save their loved ones the pain of seeing them suffer.

Some also believe death is private, and it‘s not the state’s place to interfere if a person wants to die. And there are those who believe it goes against the job description of doctors and nurses and the oath they take to not harm patients – they also say it undermines the value of human life.

Others also worry about the possibility of someone potentially recovering, or changing their mind when it‘s already too late. Some have even suggested it could lead to people feeling pressured into asking to die, as they don’t want to be a burden upon those around them.

Many religious people are opposed to euthanasia and assisted dying too, as they believe God decides when we die.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

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