Netherlands to Allow Doctors to Help End Lives of Terminally Ill Children

The Dutch government announced plans this week to allow doctors to end the lives of terminally ill children who are under 13 years old, a decision that is bound to inflame the debate over physician-assisted death.

The Netherlands already allows doctors to facilitate the deaths of people who are over 12 or less than a year old as long as parents have given their consent.

In a letter to parliament on Tuesday, the Dutch health minister, Hugo de Jonge, proposed expanding the law to include children between the ages of 1 and 12 who are dying and suffering.

“In a small number of cases, palliative care isn’t sufficient,” Mr. de Jonge wrote. “Because of that, some children suffer unnecessarily without any hope of improvement.”

He estimated that the measure would affect about five to 10 children every year.

Doctors in the Netherlands have expressed concern that they could be held criminally liable if they were to help end the lives of “incurably ill” children between 1 and 12, since the law had no provision for children that age who are expected to die imminently.

Under the current law, a doctor may end the life of a child younger than