Doctors in the Netherlands have called for terminally ill young children to be given the right to die.
The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world where euthanasia is permitted for terminally ill patients.
But the Dutch Paediatric Association said that existing laws do not go far enough and called for an age limit to be scrapped.
Under current laws, only those aged 12 and over can ask to die. "We feel that an arbitrary age limit such as 12 should be changed," said Eduard Verhagen, professor of paediatrics and a member of the association's ethics committee. "Each child's ability to ask to die should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis."
Euthanasia in the Netherlands is subject to strict controls. Doctors can only claim immunity from prosecution if a series of stringent conditions is fulfilled. The patient's suffering must be unbearable, with no prospect of improvement, and they must persistently ask to die over a course of time.
Under the current rules, children aged 12-16 must have parental approval, while euthanasia is banned for under 12s.
"If a child under 12 satisfies the same conditions, paediatricians are currently powerless. It's time to address this problem," said Prof Verhagen.
Five children have been euthanised in the Netherlands since it became legal in 2002, Prof Verhagen said. One was 12 years old, while the other four were aged between 16 and 17.
A change in the law would bring the Netherlands into line with its neighbour Belgium, which last year became the first country in the world to allow euthanasia for young children. (© Daily Telegraph London)