Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers Friday announced that regulations were being drafted so that euthanasia can be applied to that small group of children aged 1 to 12 for whom palliative care options are not sufficient to alleviate their suffering and who has such a serious illness or disorder that death is inevitable.
The rule change requires the government to modify an existing protocol, without the need for parliamentary approval.
In a letter to the Dutch Parliament, Kuipers insisted that assisted dying will be possible when it is the only reasonable alternative for a doctor to end the desperate and unbearable suffering of the child.
This is a very complex subject that deals with harrowing situations that you would not wish on anyone, Kuipers said. I am pleased that after intensive consultation with all parties involved, we have come to a solution with which we can help these terminally-ill children, their parents, and also their practitioners, he added.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government expects to publish the regulation this year and an evaluation of its application will be carried out after a period of time following its entry into force.
The cabinet is working on a life termination scheme for children up to the age of 12 who suffer unbearably and without hope, the Health Ministry said.
In the Netherlands, the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia on April 1, 2002, active aid in dying is already legal for children over the age of 12 who can give consent, and for infants under the age of one with parental consent.
The number of people dying in the Netherlands with the help of a euthanasia procedure rose by 13.7% last year to a total of 8,720 cases, accounting for 5.1% of all deaths registered in the country in 2022, according to the regional euthanasia review committees (RTEs, as per their acronym in Dutch).
The number of euthanasia deaths used to increase by around 10% a year, mostly performed on people with cancer, although last year there were also 288 cases of euthanasia on people with dementia, 35% more than in 2021.
The new changes for children between one and 12 will bring the Netherlands in line with Belgium, which in 2014 became the first country in the world to pass a law allowing euthanasia for young children, albeit with the child's consent. The Dutch protocol however says that if the child is unable to give consent, euthanasia could also be carried out with the parents' permission in consultation with a physician, Health Ministry Spokesman Axel Dees told AFP.
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