Belgian politicians debate the bill on child euthanasia at the Belgian federal parliament in Brussels, Wednesday Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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Twelve years after legalising euthanasia for adults, Belgium's parliament extended the right to die to terminally ill children of any age Thursday, despite opposition from the Church and some pediatricians.After months of heated debate, the lower House of Representatives adopted legislation making the largely Catholic country the second after the Netherlands to allow mercy-killing for children, and the first to lift all age restrictions. The ground-breaking legislation was adopted by 86 votes in favour, 44 against and with 12 abstentions. Belgium is one of three countries in Europe to allow euthanasia for adults. "It is not a question of imposing euthanasia on anyone ... but of allowing a child not to agonise in pain," said Socialist MP Karine Lalieux ahead of the vote. Unlike the Dutch across the border, where euthanasia is allowed for children over 12, the law states that any incurably sick child may request to end their suffering if "conscious", and if equipped with "a capacity of discernment". Belgium registered 1,432 cases of euthanasia in 2012, up 25 percent.Neighbouring Netherlands has seen only five euthanasia requests from youngsters in the last decade.
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