headed to the U. S. ?

N ews that disabled newborns are routinely euthanized in the Netherlands took many family advocates by surprise, but bioethicists say the practice has been going on at least 15 years—and the idea has already gained some favor in the United States.

The Groningcn Protocol—the name the Dutch have given the practice—was analyzed in the March 10, 2005 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)). The authors dispassionately discussed the fact that 600 + newborns each year arc killed by lethal injection.

But those arc just the ones on the record . The report goes on to estimate that for every documented incident, five more are euthanized off the books. The problem with the practice, the authors conclude, isn’t the fact that hundreds of lives arc taken each year–it’s the secrecy that surrounds it. But the Dutch Royal Medical Society published guidelines in the early 1990s on how to decide whether or not to kill a newborn baby —asking doctors to take into consideration whether the child would ever be able to live e independently, experience self-realization” (i.e., be able to hear, read, write and work) and have “meaningful interpersonal relations.”

What’s happening now is, rather than doing it behind closed doors, this [study] is an attempt to legitimize and legalize it formally,” says Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics expert and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. “They call this a “healing treatment” and yet it is a huge human rights violation. I’m beginning to wonder if we owe the [Nazi] doctors who were hanged at Nuremberg an apology.”

Smith has been watching Dutch doctors closely for more than a decade, and has examined the Groningcn Protocol in detail in his 1997 book Forced Exit. A 1996 article in the British Medical Journal, The Lancet found that 8 percent of the deaths among Dutch infants every year result from lethal injection—many, many without parental consent. A 1993 PBS documentary called “Choosing Death” included interviews with several Dutch doctors who discussed their cases, said Nancy Valko, president of Missouri Nurses for Life. And some of those serious medical conditions” warranting euthanasia, she said, were not all that serious.

They had a kid born with a deformed [male] reproductive organ , and the doctor euthanized him because he said other kids would make fun of him in locker rooms later in life,’ she told Citizen. Then they talked about over-ruling a family [who wanted their baby euthanized] and fixing its deformed arms and legs . They said, ‘Oh, we can do something about that . So where arc the standards? It’s just crazy.”

That kind of thinking isn’t limited just to the Netherlands, however: Both Smith and Valko say American bioethicists are already discussing ways to import the practice to America. After the NEJM study was published, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed from Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer. “The dispute is no longer about whether it is justifiable to end an infant’s life if it won’t be worth living,” Singer wrote, “but whether that end may be brought about by active means.

Though the recent death of Terri Schiavo has the nation talking about “living wills” and putting their end-of-life-care wishes into writing, Valko pointed out that if the Dutch way of practicing medicine takes root in the United States, it won’t really matter whether people have clearly expressed their wishes or not.

“They say this is really a medical decision ,“ she told Citizen. “The whole point of “living wills’ was to keep doctors from doing things you didn’t want done. But in all the right-to-die cases, none of the people had living wills, so the doctors are doing what they want anyway. They’ve gone from keeping you alive longer than you wanted to be to making you dead sooner than you wanted—and we’re right back to having doctors making the decisions without your input again.”


                                                               CITIZEN Magazine

                                                                        Vol. 19, No. 6 June 2005, (pg. 6)

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