Dutch Commission Would Set Rules on Euthanasia of Newborn Babies

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

Dutch Commission Would Set Rules on Euthanasia of Newborn Babies Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 29, 2005

Amsterdam, Netherlands (LifeNews.com) — The Dutch government is setting up a commission that would set the rules for when doctors are allowed to euthanize "seriously suffering" newborn babies they believe will not live even with medical care and attention. Pro-life groups worry the move will allow for more euthanasia.

Euthanasia of newborns is still technically illegal but the commission, which would consist of three doctors, an attorney and a bioethicist, will likely recommend that physicians who kill newborns but follow certain guidelines will not be charged with manslaughter or murder.

Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Junior Health Minister Clemence Ross-van Dorp said the commission would begin its work in mid-2006, according to a Reuters report. They hoped it would add "transparency" to what’s taking place there.

"We wanted to respond to the needs of doctors to create clarity in how to deal with ending the life of seriously suffering newborns as well as the legal consequences of late abortions," the ministers wrote in a letter to parliament.

"The conventions, as well as the opinion of the commission, offer doctors the knowledge that cases will not just be seen from a legal perspective but also from a medical and ethical perspective," they wrote, according to the Reuters report.

But Bert Dorenbos of the Dutch pro-life group Scream for Life doubts that will be the case and said the commission would just provide cover for doctors to engage in more euthanasia.

"It is a very dangerous and tragic development," he told Reuters. "It means that doctors will have a freer hand as to whether to end the life of a child or not. It is a slippery slope."

Earlier this year, reports showed doctors in Holland had engaged in 22 cases of euthanizing babies with spina bifida, a disabling birth defect affecting the spinal column that has been repaired in surgeries. The doctors were never prosecuted for killing the infants.

Prosecutors said they would not charge the doctors as long as they followed official protocols set up by the Groningen hospital where they worked.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia for adults. There is no official figure, but estimates indicate thousands of people die from euthanasia annually.