The Netherlands is set to become the second country in the world to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children under 12. After months of debate in the country's ruling coalition, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said regulations would be changed to help "a small group of terminally ill children who agonize with no hope, and unbearable suffering," the Guardian reports. At least two doctors must approve the procedure, he said. The country already allows euthanasia for children over 12, with mandatory consent from the patients and the parents. For younger terminally ill patients, excluding babies under one year old, the only current options are palliative care or having nutrition withdrawn.
In a letter to the Dutch parliament, de Jonge said a study had determined 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," the BBC reports. He said experts estimated five to 10 children a year would be euthanized. Under the rule change, which was strongly opposed by conservative Christians, doctors who carry out an approved euthanasia on children under 12 will no longer risk prosecution. In 2014, Belgium removed age restrictions for euthanasia. The rules stated that the request would have to come from a terminally ill child facing "constant and unbearable physical suffering." (Read more euthanasia stories.)