Belgium euthanasia
Parliament in Brussels has passed a bill abolishing age restrictions for euthanasia (Reuters)

The Belgian parliament has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children, without any age limit.

The country will be the first to abolish an age limit for the practice, once the bill is signed by King Phillippe.

Currently, children must wait until they reach 18 before they can request euthanasia, or wait to die of natural causes. However, this will no longer be the case, as the bill was approved with a majority of 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.

As expected, the legislation has riled opposers into protest. When the vote was passed in court, one man shouted "murderers" in French - while last week, 160 Belgian paediatricians signed an open letter condeming the bill.

They argued that modern medicine was more than capable of supporting sick children, while other options were available to alleviate pain for terminal patients.

Church leaders in Belgium have argued that allowing child euthanasia is immoral.

However, for sick children in the country, the bill may offer relief that cannot be found in large doses of painkillers and extensive treatments.

Stating that a child would have to be terminally ill with "unbearable physical suffering", the law reduces the number of children who are applicable. Before the procedure is considered, they must make repeated requests to die - and there must be no treatment or medicine available to alleviate their pain.

For those arguing children could be manipulated into making an irreversible decision, the guidelines state a child must be aware of exactly what euthanasia means. They must be completely conscious of their choice and how the process works. As the specifics of the new law mean it will affect a small number of people, namely teenagers, it is arguable that they are both able to comprehend and make the decision.

Still, church leaders and protesters have argued the law is immoral. Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, said that children should not have to think about suicide.

He said: "The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they've become able to decide that someone should make them die."

While an incomprehendibly difficult choice between a life in pain or death is unimaginable for most, it is reality for some.

It is not just children that are having to choose, but also parents, doctors and psychiatrists. All must agree before a child can be euthanised.

Opposers argue that children will be manipulated into suicide, but it is unlikely that a parent or carer would do so - even if they could not bear to see their child suffer. Even if this was the case, the panel - including the sufferer - must all reach agreement on whether euthanasia is an option.

There are indeed grey areas in the bill, as with most legislation. When euthanasia is the issue, however, no clear-cut rules - such as weeks, months or years - are suitable.

The law states the child must be in the "final stages" of illness, but some have argued this is not defined.

The argument? There is no all-encompassing "final stage" for terminal illnesses, as time and symptoms varies. While controversial, Brussels has offered young people the right to live or die - a choice which they make themselves, with the support of others.