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New Dutch Panel Likely To Protect Doctors That Euthanize Babies

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

AMSTERDAM--The Netherlands government is setting up a special commission to regulate the killing of newborns with disabilities and certain medical conditions.

Reuters news service reports that the euthanasia panel, which is set to begin work in the middle of 2006, will include three doctors, a lawyer and an ethicist. The commission will likely recommend that doctors who follow certain guidelines not face prosecution for killing infants who are considered "seriously suffering" from their disabilities.

The country's health and justice ministers want the commission to regulate such "mercy killings" of babies, along with late-term abortions, so that doctors who follow rules similar to the Groningen protocol are not criminally prosecuted. Under those guidelines, a newborn's medical team and an independent doctor would have to agree that the child has no hope of improvement; the child's pain cannot be eased; 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.

While euthanasia is legal for adults in the Netherlands in some circumstances, it is not legal for children. Regardless of the law, however, survey data released earlier this year showed that doctors either killed 15 to 20 Dutch newborns or allowed them to die because of their disabilities each year between 1997 and 2004. Official numbers based on actual medical reports were much lower, leading to the conclusion that few doctors report when they euthanize babies for fear of liability or criminal prosecution.

Many disability rights groups oppose laws that make euthanasia legal for children or adults. They claim that such laws give the wrong impression -- that death is preferable to living with a disability -- and make people with certain disabilities more vulnerable than they already are.

"Dutch commission to set rules on baby euthanasia" (Reuters)

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