Child euthanasia

Child euthanasia is a controversial form of non-voluntary euthanasia that is applied to children who are gravely ill or suffer from significant birth defects.

Some critics[who?] have compared child euthanasia to infanticide. Others, such as Joseph Fletcher, founder of situational ethics and a euthanasia proponent, proposed that infanticide be permitted in cases of severe birth defects. Fletcher says that unlike the sort of infanticide perpetrated by very disturbed people, in such cases child euthanasia could be considered humane; a logical and acceptable extension of abortion.[1] American bioethicist Jacob M. Appel goes one step further, arguing that pediatric euthanasia may be ethical even in the absence of parental consent.[2]


Child euthanasia by country

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, euthanasia remains technically illegal for patients under the age of 12. However, Eduard Verhagen has documented several cases of infant euthanasia. Together with colleagues and prosecutors, he has developed a protocol to be followed in those cases. Prosecutors will refrain from pressing charges if this "Groningen Protocol" is followed.[3][4]

The legalization of euthanasia for children prompted a very critical response from Elio Sgreccia, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.[5]

United Kingdom

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched an enquiry in 2006 into critical care in fetal and neonatal medicine, looking at the ethical, social and legal issues which may arise when making decisions surrounding treating extremely premature babies.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in its submission, recommended that a public debate be started around the options of "non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia" for "the sickest of newborns".[6] The College stated that there should be discussion over whether "deliberate intervention" to cause death in severely disabled newborn babies should be legalised; it stated that while it was not necessarily in favour of the move, it felt the issues should be debated. The College stated in this submission that having these options would save some families from years of emotional and financial suffering; it might also reduce the number of late abortions, "as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome".[6] In response to this proposal, Pieter Sauer, a senior paediatrician in the Netherlands, argued that British neonatologists already perform "mercy killings" and should be allowed to do so openly.[6]

The Church of England submission to the enquiry supported the view that doctors should be given the right to withhold treatment from seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances, and the Christian Medical Fellowship stated that when treatment would be "a burden" this was not euthanasia.[6][7][8]

See also


  1. ^ Fletcher, Joseph (1978). "Infanticide and the ethics of loving concern". In Kohl, Marvin. Infanticide and the Value of Life. NY: Prometheus Books. pp. 13–22.. ISBN 978-0879751005 
  2. ^ Appel JM (May 2009). "Neonatal Euthanasia: Why Require Parental Consent?". Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 6 (4): 477–482. doi:10.1007/s11673-009-9156-3. 
  3. ^ Verhagen, Eduard; Sauer, Pieter J.J. (2005). "The Groningen Protocol — Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns". The New England Journal of Medicine 352 (10): pp. 959–962. doi:10.1056/NEJMp058026. PMID 15758003 
  4. ^ "Outrage from Churches over Euthanasia on Newborns". December 1, 2004. Retrieved 2007-05-22 
  5. ^ Statement by Mgr Elio Sgreccia
  6. ^ a b c d Templeton, Sarah-Kate."Doctors: let us kill disabled babies", Sunday Times, 2006-11-05 (retrieved 05-2007).
  7. ^ "Church supports baby euthanasia - Times Online". The Times (London). November 12, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  8. ^ "Church enters euthanasia debate". BBC News. 12 November 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 

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