BRUSSELS (AP) — This week, Belgium is expected to take the unprecedented step of abolishing age restrictions on euthanasia.

Belgium is one of the few countries where mercy killing is legal, and legislation to extend it to children appears to have wide support.

The Belgian Senate approved the legislation in December and the House of Representatives is scheduled to debate the issue today and likely approve it Thursday.

Most Belgians are in favor of changes to the country's euthanasia law but the 25 percent or so of opponents have been very vocal in their objections to extending the right to children for the first time.Opponents have staged noisy street protests, fearing that vulnerable children will be talked into making a final, irreversible choice.

Backers say the law will be specific enough that it will only apply to the handful of teenage boys and girls who are in advanced stages of cancer or other terminal illnesses.

King Philippe, Belgium's constitutional head of state, must sign the legislation for it to go into effect.