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Number Of Dutch Babies Euthanized Was Larger Than Earlier Reported
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2005

GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS--Over the past seven years, up to 20 newborns with disabilities have been killed each year in the Netherlands, according to a Dutch report published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

That number is up to seven times higher than reported in January.

Drs. Eduard Verhagen and Pieter J.J. Sauer, pediatricians at Groningen University Medical Center, reported in January that 22 Dutch newborns were euthanized because of their disabilities between 1997 and 2004. Most of those babies reportedly had a form of spina bifida in which their spinal cords were not closed, some of their brain mass was missing, and their internal organs did not function.

But surveys done since have revealed 15 to 20 such "mercy killings" per year, Verhagen and Sauer reported this week.

None of the doctors involved was prosecuted even though euthanasia is illegal in the Netherlands for people under the age of 16.

Verhagen and Sauer are trying to draw attention to what they believe is the need for guidelines for doctors to kill or allow the death of babies with certain disabilities. They claim that euthanasia of newborns currently goes on in other countries, but is seldom reported to authorities.

"All over the world, doctors end lives discretely, out of compassion, without any kind of regulation," Verhagen said.

The doctors have suggested euthanasia guidelines that would require making sure a newborn's medical team and an independent doctor agree the child has no hope of improvement; the child's pain cannot be eased; that both parents have given their consent; and the baby's life is ended in the "correct medical way". The protocol would also require all such deaths to be reported to local authorities, along with the newborn's condition and method used to end its life.

"Obviously, we're against that," Steve Drake, who is with the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, told the New York Times.

Drake noted that such rules are designed to protect doctors, not people with disabilities, and that the proposed Groningen protocol, is based on "singling out infants based on somebody else's assessment of their quality of life."

Douglas J. Sorocco, who has spina bifida and is chairman of the board of directors of the Spina Bifida Association of America, told the New York Times: "People with spina bifida are having families, and making a contribution to their communities."

"I would say I have a life worth living. My wife would say I have a life worth living. My family would say I have a life worth living."

Related:
"When Torment Is Baby's Destiny, Euthanasia Is Defended" (New York Times)

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/10/health/10baby.html
Newborn euthanasia underreported (Associated Press via CNN)
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/03/09/euthanasia.study.ap
"Killing or caring?" (British Medical Journal)
http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/330/7491/560
Extract: "The Groningen Protocol -- Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns" (New England Journal of Medicine)
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/extract/352/10/959

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