Dutch Considered Child Euthanasia Proposal

Amsterdam, Netherlands -- The government withdrew a proposal Thursday that would have allowed ill children as young as 12 to decide whether to end their own lives by assisted suicide without parental consent.

The exclusion of the much-debated clause was likely to boost the chances for passing a broader bill legalizing assisted suicide, which is now accepted practice in Holland under certain guidelines even though it is still technically outlawed.

The Ministry of Justice said it had withdrawn the proposal to offer ``physicians the possibility, in exceptional cases, of allowing a request for euthanasia by a minor between 12 and 16 against the wishes of their parents.''

The government of Prime Minister Wim Kok has wavered over the issue, first proposing the measure and then withdrawing it more than a year ago. The ministers of health and justice resubmitted the proposal last week, in what some analysts viewed as a ploy to win approval for other controversial provisions of the new legislation, such as legalizing euthanasia for victims of Alzheimer's.

The bill would legalize guidelines set by the government in 1993 under which doctors would not be prosecuted for assisting suicide.

The regulations, to be incorporated in the new law, place strict conditions on euthanasia: the patient must be suffering irremediable and unbearable pain, be aware of all other medical options, and make voluntary and informed requests. Doctors aren't allowed to suggest it as an option.

In 1999, 2,216 cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide were recorded in the Netherlands.

Source: Associated Press; July 13, 2000. Provide by: The Pro-Life Infonet

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