The Dutch government has approved plans to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children between the ages of one and 12.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherland since 2002, making them the first country in the world to do so. It is currently legal in the Netherlands for adults, as well as children older than 12, but requires mandatory consent from both the patient and their parents. Babies up to a year old may also be euthanised with parental consent.

According to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge, the decision to extend the law to those between one and 12 is based on a study by experts.

“The study shows that there is a need for active termination of life among doctors and parents of incurably ill children, who are suffering hopelessly and unbearably and will die within the foreseeable future,” de Jonge wrote in a letter to Parliament on Tuesday, October 13.

In the letter, de Jonge notes that around 5-10 children will be affected by this rule change every year.

The new regulations will be drafted following government’s approval, and is expected to be implemented within the coming months. While current laws will not change, doctors will be exempt from prosecution for euthanising a child in the given age range, with approval.

The new regulations will require the patient be terminally ill and unbearably and endlessly suffering to be eligible. Parental consent will be necessary, and two doctors must agree to the procedure.

This move has not been without controversy, and has spurred a months-long debate and opposition from conservative Christian parties in the Netherlands.

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