(TIME) Belgium became the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on euthanasia, after an emotional debate which split the medical profession over the best way to treat a terminally ill child with a desire to end his or her life.

Despite last-minute pleas for a rethink from within Belgium and as far away as Canada, parliament on Thursday agreed with the doctors who argued that in rare cases of unbearable and irreversible suffering, children should have the same right as an adult to ask to die with dignity.

Under the amendments to the country’s 2002 euthanasia law, a child of any age can be helped to die, but only under strict conditions. He or she must be terminally ill, close to death, and deemed to be suffering beyond any medical help. The child must be able to request euthanasia themselves and demonstrate they fully understand their choice. The request will then be assessed by teams of doctors, psychologists and other care-givers before a final decision is made with approval of the parents.

 

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