Euthanasia.

Photo: Jim Rice

BRUSSELS: Belgian legislators are debating whether to amend the decade-old law allowing euthanasia to include minors. Experts have told parliament that euthanasia among minors was already taking place, but without any set guidelines.

Currently, the law applies to those over 18, but one expert told the upper house of parliament that it was clear that euthanasia was being carried out on younger people, the Belga news agency reported.

"We all know it," said Dominique Biarent, head of intensive care at Queen Fabiola Children's University Hospital in Brussels.

Faced with this reality, "doctors need a legal framework", Ms Biarent was quoted as saying by Belga on Wednesday.

Another expert, Professor Chris Van Geet of Leuven University, said the proposed changes pose "an enormous ethical problem".

The changes to the law, which would also include sufferers of Alzheimer's disease, were submitted to parliament in December. It is likely to be several months before any decision on them is made.

In 2002, Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise euthanasia.

A total of 1133 instances, mostly for terminal cancer, were recorded in 2011 – about 1 per cent of all deaths in the country, according to official figures.

AFP