News of the Day ... in Perspective4/3/2005
Dutch doctors propose criteria for “euthanizing” disabled newborns
Two Dutch physicians have published guidelines known as the “Groningen protocol” for ending the lives of babies born with a prospect of “unbearable suffering” or a poor quality of life (N Engl J Med 2005;352:959-962).
Drs. Verhagen and Sauer stated that they were simply trying to bring a measure of accountability to acts that are occurring every day.
The proposed “strict guidelines” include full and informed consent of parents, the agreement of a team of physicians, and a subsequent review of each case by an “independent legal body” (NY Times 3/10/05).
In late 2004, a Netherlands hospital began carrying out these “procedures” without waiting for any official review or approval.
Physicians reported 22 cases of euthanasia of babies born with spina bifida between 1997 and 2004. Prosecutors dismissed all cases after judicial review. Dutch doctors estimate that at least five newborn mercy killings occur for every one that is reported (AP 3/9/05).
If the baby has a “long life expectancy,” then the burden of establishing other factors (lack of self-sufficiency, severe pain, future inability to communicate, and expected hospital dependency) is considered greater. Additional information: