Euthanasia of newborns and the Groningen Protocol
Published on : 04/02/2015
Author / Source : B. Debois et J. Zeegers
Until now, only three countries in the world have decriminalised euthanasia: the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. This practice is available only to people who are mentally competent when they apply (if necessary, via a declaration in advance requesting euthanasia).
A notable exception to the voluntary nature of the request for euthanasia concerns newborns who face suffering that is deemed intolerable and who have no prospect of enjoying an acceptable “quality of life” at any point in the future. In a text written in 2004, entitled the Groningen Protocol, Professor Eduard Verhagen, Head of the Department of Paediatrics at the Medical Center of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, provides criteria to enable doctors to deliberately end the life of severely ill newborns.
First we outline the content of the Groningen Protocol, specify its legal status in the Netherlands and present several statistics. Then we review the main criticisms of the Protocol. Finally, the issue of withholding futile medical care in the specific case of newborns is discussed.
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