The Dutch Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act (WTL) applies to persons above the age of 12. There is no legislation for euthanasia and assisted suicide for minors aged 1 to 12. The WTL requires mental competence of the patient who makes the request. Minors below the age of 12 are legally considered not to be mentally competent and therefore the physician is not able to fulfill the due care criteria. The only possibility to end a life of a minor aged 1 to 12 is to rely on force majeure in the sense of necessity.1
For newborns, end-of-life treatment is allowed when the criteria of the Groningen Protocol are fulfilled (see section "Newborns" for more information).2 The fact that minors aged 1 to 12 are excluded from any legislation has caused a lot of debates. The Dutch Association for Pediatrics states that minors aged 1 to 12 should also have the possibility to choose for euthanasia when suffering hopelessly and unbearably. According to the Association, not the age but the level of mental competence of the patient should be the most important factor when assessing the legality of an euthanasia request.3 Moreover, the Association advocates for more systematic research on how minors aged 1 to 12 die and on related bottlenecks. This research will be carried out in 2018.
1. E. de Bont, E. Verhagen, ‘Beslissingen rond het levenseinde in de praktijk’ KINDERARTS EN SAMENLEVING – NVK 2014, mei 2014, p. 14-16.
2. E. de Bont, E. Verhagen, ‘Beslissingen rond het levenseinde in de praktijk’ KINDERARTS EN SAMENLEVING – NVK 2014, mei 2014, p. 14-16.
3. NVK, Standpunt NVK Levensbeëindiging kinderen 12 jaar: een pleidooi voor onderzoek, Nederlandse Vereniging voor Kindergeneeskunde, 2015.