(CNN) – Belgian lawmakers have passed landmark legislation that expands the country's euthanasia law. The bill approved by parliament removes age restrictions, making Belgium the first country in the world to extend the right to die to children under age 12.
A 2002 law already allows euthanasia for adults.
There was no medicine that could save Ella Louise. A rare genetic mutation called Krabbe disease destroyed her nervous system. She was heavily sedated in the final days of her short, ten-month life, and given no food or water in order to try and speed up the inevitable.
"During that whole period of sedation, you always need to give more and more and more medication. You start asking questions and you say "what's the use of keeping this baby alive?"" Ella Louise's mother, Linda van Roy said.
Linda wishes she could have administered a fatal dose, and spared them both the pain of those final days. And that's why she has campaigned for a change to Belgium's end of life and euthanasia laws.
"We want for those children, we wanted to be able to talk about euthanasia and to ask those questions and if they really want to say, "Stop. This is it. I don't want to anymore," then they have the choice," van Roy said.
Pediatricians like Gerland van Berlaer say it will simply legalize what happens anyway.
"Doctors do terminate lives of children as well as of adults, but today it's done in a grey zone or in the dark because it's illegal," Dr. van Berlaer said.
But critics question whether children can reasonably decide whether to end their own lives.
Izabella Sacewicz has Huntington's disease, a degenerative neurological illness, which drastically reduces life expectancy in children.
She has just turned eighteen, in the last few years, she's lost the ability to walk, eat or speak properly, but she can still think for herself.
"You know what that means, euthanasia?" her mother, Iwona Sacewicz asked.
"No," Izabella said.
"Euthanasia means if you're not well, you are so unhappy that you don't want to stay here, you want to leave, go high above to God," Iwona said. "But if you leave, you leave forever, you can't come back. What do you think about that? It's good or it's not good?
"It's not good!" Izabella said.
Izabella's mother Iwona struggles to look after both of her children and keep working as a cleaner to keep the money coming in.
"If we do everything for our children, make sure they're happy, see a smile, it makes up for everything," Iwona said. "So if we had help you wouldn't think of death for our children, because everyone wants to live."
She thinks the lawmakers should have focused instead on better support for families like hers, especially as children like Izabella pass into adulthood, when the care options shrink further.
One of the main arguments is that this is more a matter of principle than anything else; that children should have the same rights as adults, but that only a tiny number will ever ask for euthanasia.
Since 2002, the Netherlands has allowed children over the age of 12, with the consent of their parents, to choose euthanasia. During that time, only five children have ever chosen to die that way.
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