Netherlands Hospital Begins Euthanasia of Babies Without Official Approval

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Netherlands Hospital Begins Euthanasia of Babies Without Official Approval Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 30, 2004

Amsterdam, Netherlands ( — In a startling revelation Tuesday, a Dutch hospital admitted that it did not wait for the country’s government to weigh a proposal to euthanize children. It has already moved forward and begun carrying out such euthanasia procedures in several cases.

Approved in 2002, Dutch law allows adult patients suffering from incurable diseases to request assisted suicide. Teenagers under the age of 16 must have their parents approval, but the newly proposed law would drop that to 12 years of age and would allow children to be euthanized.

That the Dutch parliament has not considered the idea hasn’t stopped one hospital from pushing ahead.

The Associated Press reports that Groningen Academic Hospital has created guidelines for doctors there to euthanize newborns who are suffering from pain associated with incurable diseases or extreme physical deformities.

Known as the Groningen Protocol, and announced last month, it allows euthanasia when a baby’s medical team and independent doctors agree there is no prospect for improving pain.

The child’s parents also must agree to the request to end the child’s life.

Babies who are extremely premature, who have suffered brain damage from bleeding or convulsions, and children unable to live without life support are eligible to be killed under the guidelines.

Pro-life advocates are saddened by the shocking news.

"As hard as it is to hear of such atrocities happening and being tolerated it should not surprise us," Lori Kehoe, who actively monitors bioethics issues for the National Right to Life Committee, told

"When you draw an arbitrary line on whose life is worth protecting and whose isn’t it is easy to move that line and hard to rationalize an outcry against it," Kehoe explained.

According to the AP report, the hospital carried out such euthanasias in 2003 and reported them to the Dutch government, which has taken no action against it.

The hospital is the only one in the country to engage in euthanasia and it also carried out so-called "mercy killings" in previous years.

Kehoe said there is a danger that euthanasia will increasingly be used on those who do not want to die.

"Already, in Oregon, stories have leaked of people being non-voluntary victims of the assisted suicide law," Kehoe said of the only U.S. state to legalize the grisly practice.

The child euthanasia proposal has drawn opposition from pro-life organizations, bioethics groups, disability rights advocates and the Catholic Church.

The International Federation of Centers and Institutes of Bioethics of Personalist Inspiration (IFCIBPI), a collection of 35 bioethics centers and institutions, called the idea "an inconceivable injustice."

Speaking on behalf of the Vatican, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, the vice-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, condemned the idea saying "the final boundary will have been crossed" in disrespect for the sanctity of human life.

Bishop Sgreccia warned of a "moral relativism" that has "anesthetized society," and said that modern medicine is wrongly focusing on costs rather than the welfare of the patient.

The Netherlands is the first nation in the world to allow euthanasia — which prompted millions of the western European country’s residents to wear bracelets asking doctors not to end their lives if they are severely injured.

The proposal to allow children to be euthanized has prompted Belgium to consider a similar law.

Belgian lawmakers are putting forward a measure that would expand the country’s legal euthanasia law to allow doctors to end the lives of children without parental permission.