17 April 2023, by Victoria Séveno
On Friday the Dutch government confirmed that it was expanding current euthanasia laws in the Netherlands to also cover terminally ill children under the age of 12. The cabinet plans to introduce the new regulations later this year.
The Netherlands adjusting euthanasia laws for terminally ill children
Last summer, Dutch Health Minister Ernst Kuipers published a concrete plan for legalising euthanasia for terminally ill children. Under Dutch law, assisted death is currently only possible for babies under the age of one and children over the age of 12.
From this year, the government intends to expand the current Scheme for Termination of Pregnancy and Termination of Life for Newborns (LZA / LP Scheme) to also cover children between the ages of one and 12 who “suffer hopelessly and unbearably, whose palliative care options are not sufficient to relieve their suffering, and who are expected to die in the foreseeable future.”
According to the government, the procedure would be used as a last resort for around five to 10 terminally ill children every year. “For this group,” the government writes, “termination of life is the only reasonable alternative to end the hopeless and unbearable suffering of the child.”
Dutch government to revise LZA / LP Scheme in 2023
In addition to expanding the law to also include children under the age of 12, changes will be implemented in order to remove some of the loopholes that exist in the current LZA / LP Scheme. For example, an evaluation of the current law found that the scheme “is not yet functioning properly,” and that doctors are sometimes “reluctant to perform late termination of pregnancy or termination of life in newborns.”
Kuipers hopes the changes will be able to offer some relief to families in the Netherlands: “This is a particularly complex subject that deals with very harrowing situations. Situations you wouldn’t wish on anyone. I am pleased that, after intensive consultation with all parties involved, we have come to a solution that allows us to help these terminally ill children, their parents and also their practitioners.”
In spite of this, however, some experts have already criticised the government’s plan. Talking to NOS, Suzanne van de Vathorst, a university professor in Amsterdam, said the proposed rules were not sufficiently clear and would lead to hesitation among doctors who would fear prosecution for carrying out the procedure.
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