The Netherlands considering allowing euthanasia for terminally ill kids under 12

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The Netherlands is considering allowing kids 12 and under to be euthanized if they are terminally ill and have no hope of recovery.

Health Minister Huge de Jonge proposed the new policy to the States General of the Netherlands, the country’s legislature, on Tuesday, saying termination of life should be accessible for “a small group of terminally ill children,” the NL Times reported.

Currently, assisted suicide is legal in the country for babies under one-year-old and children over the age of 12 but De Jonge is concerned for the young people in between those age groups and their access to care, the outlet reported.

For terminally ill children “who agonize with no hope, and unbearable suffering,” between the ages of one and 12, doctors can only provide palliative care or withhold nutrition until a patient dies, the outlet said.

This has created what doctors call a “gray area” between traditional palliative care and active assisted suicide, leading them to ask for more regulation, De Jonge said, according to the outlet.

De Jonge said the proposed policy will only affect between five and ten children each year who are suffering “as a result, in some cases unnecessarily, for a long time, without any prospect of improvement.” He said “the best possible care” for this group of kids is of paramount importance, the outlet reported.

Legislators against the policy said it was improper to push the change less than 6 months before the country’s next election while De Jonge countered it is a measure necessary to protect kids and will allow for more transparency to the aforementioned “gray area.”

He said it will make doctors more accountable to parents and will provide a basis for reviewing and assessing individual cases, as is already done for euthanasia situations currently allowed.