Dutch Doctors Say They Killed 20 Newborns via Euthanasia, Want Debate

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dutch Doctors Say They Killed 20 Newborns via Euthanasia, Want Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 7, 2005

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — Doctors in the Netherlands have admitted to killing twenty newborn infants they say were too disabled to survive. They are presenting details of the euthanasia bids to the Dutch government with the hopes of sparking a national debate on whether euthanasia should be legalized to include children.

Dutch law allows people over the age of 12 to declare that they want to end their lives via assisted suicide. Whether to allow euthanasia for children — and for people who cannot make their own medical decisions — has become the subject of international debate after Dutch doctors admitted to killing the newborns last year.

The Dutch Journal of Medicine confirmed last month that at least 22 newborn babies have been euthanized in the European country since 1997.

According to a Knight Ridder News Service report, Dutch officials would not say whether there would be any legal action. The Dutch government has been criticized by disabled activists and pro-life groups worldwide for not prosecuting the doctors involved.

The doctors at Groningen University Hospital, where the incidents have occurred, released a statement saying they want the Dutch parliament to address the issue.

"It’s time to be honest about the unbearable suffering endured by newborns with no hope of a future," Dr. Eduard Verhagen, the head of pediatrics for the hospital, said. "All over the world, doctors end lives discretely, out of compassion, without any kind of regulation."

"These children face a life of agonizing pain," he said.

Bert Dorenbos, chairman of Cry for Life, a Dutch pro-life group, told Knight Ridder that his group is concerned that public sentiment will coalesce around a "duty" to kill unborn children or newborns who are severely handicapped. He worried the parents of handicapped children will be subject to public ridicule if they do not kill their children.

"[N]obody likes for children to suffer," he said. "But the fact that this movement now even exists suggests we are moving in the wrong direction, away from treatment."

Verhagen says some of the newborn babies suffered from extreme spina bifida.

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

With spina bifida, which the Spina Bifida Association of America estimates affects about one in 1,000 babies, the spine does not close properly when it should, at about 28 days after conception. The nerves are damaged, then, as the pregnancy continues, the amniotic fluid in the uterus eats away at the spinal cord, adding more nerve damage.

Surgeons at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia regularly perform surgery in the womb to correct the condition or reduce its effects.

About 225 such surgeries have been performed worldwide since 1997.

Related web sites:
Groningen University Hospital report on its euthanasia protocol –