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A 17-year-old has become the first child to die by euthanasia in Belgium after the country adopted new rules in 2014.
Officials confirmed the death following the announcement to remove age restrictions on euthanasia requests two years ago.
The move has made Belgium the only country where children of any age are able to choose to have the fatal injection.
In the neighbouring Netherlands the practice is possible for children aged at least 12.
Those aged under 18 in Belgium must do so with their parents’ consent and they need to be in the final stages of a terminal illness.
The law passed by parliament insisted the minor would have to be in ‘unbearable physical suffering’ before euthanasia could be considered.
The AP adds:
“It’s terrible when a youngster suffers, but it gives me some comfort to know that now there is a choice out there for children in the final terminal stages,” [Senator Jean-Jacques] De Gucht said. “It’s important that society doesn’t neglect people in such pain.”
The Belgian law has very strict rules for the euthanasia to be approved. It requires the minor to be in the final stages of a terminal illness, to understand the difference between life and death rationally and to have asked to end his or her life on repeated occasions. It also requires parental consent and finally the approval of two doctors, including a psychiatrist.
The law — one of the most far-reaching in the Western world — had wide public support when it was introduced in 2014, but was opposed by some pediatricians and the country’s Roman Catholic clergy.
Catholic teaching forbids euthanasia and the president of the Italian bishops conference on Saturday described the news of the euthanasia of a child as painful and worrisome.
“It pains us as Christians but it also pains us as persons,” Genoa Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco told Italian news agency ANSA.