Thursday, March 03, 2005

Euthanasia as Practiced in the Netherlands

I was listening to Dennis Prager's radio show this morning and he interviewed his brother, Kenneth Prager, MD who is a clinical professor at Columbia Medical School and an expert in bioethics. The topic of discussion was on euthanasia as practiced in Holland. I've always thought that the law limited euthanasia to either patients competent to opt for it or patients with an advanced directive opting for it in advance given a certain set of medical conditions.

Apparently there is a difference between how the law is written and how it's practiced however (see). It seems that newborns with severe medical problems are being "euthanized" despite the fact that the euthansia law doesn't apply to children under 12. That being the case, under Dutch law, these cases represent homicides although no action is being taken and death certificates are apparently being falsified to suggest death due to natural causes.

Although I'm not very current on the bioethical thinking of euthanasia, it seems to me that this is a terrible precedent. To me, society suffers irreparably when the state can actually terminate the life of an infant that can't advocate for himself. No amount of safeguards could make such a policy palatable to me. Clearly, if these cases are occurring surreptitiously then current safeguards are not even being applied.



Blogger Phil Marrow said...

We are righteously outraged at the euthanizing of these newborns with a perceived defect that would lead to a "decreased quality of life" for the child and parents. But prior to the advent of surfactant and routinely intubating 24 to 26 week neonates, the children were allowed to slip into a basin of water to become another "still born" child. I witnessed this, and it still haunts me. Yes, I realize that the baby would not have lived more than a few hours, if that, but I also realize that it's not up to us to make that decision. Were those physicians as morally corrupt as the Dutch are today? Certainly a question that has gnawed at me for over 30 years. P. Marrow

March 03, 2005 4:09 PM  
Blogger Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

Thanx for this important post. Not much has been written of late regarding the "Groningen Protocol."

You wrote:

It seems that newborns with severe medical problems are being "euthanized" despite the fact that the euthansia law doesn't apply to children under 12.I believe this is incorrect. According to an article from Knight Ridder, "Under the Groningen protocol, if doctors at the hospital think a child is suffering unbearably from a terminal condition, they have the authority to end the child's life. The protocol is likely to be used primarily for newborns, but it covers any child up to age 12." (The link doesn't want to behave in this comments section, but I can send it to you if you'd like)

This is -- to say the least -- disturbing. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

March 03, 2005 6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the hospital's euthanasia rules are called the Groningen Protocol. While the article you linked to suggests that doctors won't implement the Protocol without the parents' consent, paragraph 11 in this article (
states that it is the doctors' decision and parental consent is not required.

March 03, 2005 8:43 PM  
Blogger Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC said...

I believe I just said that ;-))

The link didn't behave for me, either. Let's try again:

These should all be on the same line (no carriage returns)

As both Anon and I point out, the hospital -- not the parents -- has the final say (hmmm...sounds a lot like "final solution," no?) as to whether the Protocol is invoked, and it applies to "children" as old as 12.

Talk about your "slippery slope..."

March 03, 2005 9:11 PM  

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