Belgium has become the first country in the world to extend the right for euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age.  The legislation was passed on Thursday by a large majority. 

The law previously allowed any child of a minimum age of 12 to be judged mature enough to end their lives.  The law has popular support in Belgium, where adult euthanasia has been allowed since 2002.  

Though there is still some opposition, particularly from the Christian Democratic side, as well as many Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.  When the vote was read out, a man in the public gallery cried "murderers!" 

Carina Van Cauter, a Flemish Liberal Democratic member who backs the law insisted: 

"This is not about lethal injections for children, this is about terminally ill children whose death is imminent and who are suffering greatly.  There are clear checks and balances in the law to prevent abuse." 

The vote has been gaining much more attention abroad than in Belgium, where none of the major newspapers even bothered to carry the story.  

Children who want to end their lives must be "capable of discernment" and psychologists must test them to confirm they understand the gravity of the situation and what they are doing.  Parents must also give the go-ahead for the procedure to take place.  Children must be terminally ill for the law to come into effect, not just in a state of unbearable suffering, which is the case for adults.

Supporters say these safeguards will stop any children or teenagers deemed too immature to decide. 

Opponents, though, worry that this new law is the start of a "slippery slope" towards the "banalization" of euthanasia and religious leaders have asked why the law has given children this responsibility, when they have to be 18 for other legal rights.  

Belgian nurse Sonja Develter, who has cared for over 200 children in the last stages of their lives since 1992 said she "has never had a child asking to end their life."

She stresses, though, that requests for euthanasia may come from parents who are emotionally exhausted at having to watch their child suffer.  

Between 2006 and 2012, there has only been one Belgian under 20 requesting euthanasia out of over 1000 who requesgt it annually.