Dutch Government Rules Will Expand Euthanasia to Children, Infants

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dutch Government Rules Will Expand Euthanasia to Children, Infants Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 29, 2005

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — The Dutch government is preparing to expand its euthanasia law to include children under new rules drafted by doctors at a Dutch hospital that is aggressively ending the life of children they feel or too sick to help with medical care.

Under the guidelines, two agreeing doctors may also kill newborn babies with the consent of parents in cases where the infants are severely disabled or unlikely to live long.

The Dutch government submitted a letter to the European nation’s parliament outlining the proposed changes. Dutch Health Ministry spokeswoman Annette Dijkstra told the Associated Press that the changes don’t need approval from parliament and are set to take effect in mid-October.

Pro-life groups and disability rights organizations have strongly condemned the guidelines, known as the Groningen Protocol because they were drafted by physicians at Groningen University Medical Center.

The guidelines are also important because they will direct decisions on other patients who are unable to say for themselves whether they want lifesaving medical treatment. That would adversely affect mentally disabled patients, the elderly, and those suffering from psychological problems.

Johannes Verheijden, a spokesman for the group BOSK, who helps parents of children with disabilities, condemned the proposal.

"There is no need for a doctor to play an active role in death, the focus should be on easing pain," he told AP. "There always has to be some doubt in these cases, and the benefit of doubt should be on the side of life."

Holland plans to establish a commission to make sure the protocol are followed in each euthanasia case.

According to the commission for adult euthanasia, about 2,000 people die from the grisly practice each year in a nation of 16 million. However, other reports and studies suggest the number is significantly higher.

Speaking about the babies killed at Groningen, 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.

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.

The proposal 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.