Dutch Doctors Want Guidelines on Euthanasia After Hospital Kills Newborns

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 2, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dutch Doctors Want Guidelines on Euthanasia After Hospital Kills Newborns Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
December 2, 2004

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — Dutch doctors are asking the Netherlands government for guidelines on so-called "mercy killings" after revelations surfaced this week that a hospital in the European nation has been killing several newborns a year it determines are not healthy enough to live.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has asked the Netherlands Ministry of Health to put together a panel to evaluate when euthanasia can be used on people "with no free will," CNN reports.

That would include both adults and children who are unable to make their own health care decisions because of severe disabilities.

The current legal standards in place only address patients who can decide whether they want to live or die.

Those standards indicate the patient must freely choose to die and make such a request on several occasions. The patient must be in severe pain and the patient’s doctor must get a second opinion from another physician agreeing to the request.

Dr. Eduard Verhagen, of the hospital’s pediatric clinic, told NPR that the babies who had been euthanized were born with incurable conditions so serious "(we) felt that the most humane course would be to allow the child to die and even actively assist them with their death."

"They are very rare cases of extreme suffering. In these cases, the diagnosis was extreme spina bifada," Verhagen added.

However, spina bifada can be diagnosed during pregnancy and some unborn children have had surgery to correct the damage the condition causes.

According to an Associated Press report this week, 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.

According to the AP report, the hospital carried out such euthanasia requests in the last few years and reported them to the Dutch government, which has taken no action against it.

Pro-life groups were shocked and saddened by the news.

"A society or culture that does not respect the innate dignity of every human life inevitably places value judgments on the worth of an individual’s life," responded Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "To decide that it is better to kill a person, regardless of how sick or helpless, than to care for that person is unconscionable."

"Unless this policy is rejected by the international community, the culture of death will have taken one more step into the modern world," Perkins added.

Holland was the first country to legalize the practice of euthanasia — allowing doctors to end the life of a patient, with their consent, who is suffering from a terminal illness or incurable condition.

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 measure would drop that to 12 years of age and would allow children to be euthanized.

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.