Belgium's lower house of parliament has adopted, by a large majority, a law allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children.

It becomes only the second country to allow mercy-killing for minors.

After its adoption in the Senate in December, the ground-breaking legislation was adopted by 86 votes in favour, 44 against and with 12 abstentions.

There were sharp differences on views in the House of Representatives yesterday evening when the issue was debated.

Supporters of the bill argued it would enable terminally-ill children to be relieved of pain when there is no hope of recovery.

Opponents argued that children are not capable of taking such a decision and could end up being forced to choose euthanasia.

Belgium has allowed euthanasia for adults since 2002, when over-18s either have a terminal illness or suffer from extreme and prolonged psychological distress.

Data shows that more than 1,400 people availed of euthanasia in 2012.

Most were more than 60-years-old and suffering from terminal cancer.

Euthanasia for children will only be allowed, however, if they are suffering great pain from a terminal illness and had the mental capacity to understand what was going to happen.

The child's parents would also have to give their consent, and a team of doctors would have to give their approval.

The new euthanasia bill will now be signed into law by King Philippe.