Dutch doctors in baby euthanasia row

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The Independent Online

Dutch doctors have reported 22 mercy killings of terminally ill babies in the Netherlands since 1997, a study has found. Prosecutors decided not to take any action.

Dutch doctors have reported 22 mercy killings of terminally ill babies in the Netherlands since 1997, a study has found. Prosecutors decided not to take any action.

The study, published yesterday in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Dutch Journal of Medicine), is the first detailed examination of the illegal practice, which is seen as ethical by many euthanasia advocates, but is viewed with disgust and horror by opponents.

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalise euthanasia for adults who request it and are suffering great pain with no hope of relief. But the government delayed a decision on more controversial proposals by the main Dutch doctors' association to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people "with no free will", including children, the severely mentally retarded, and people in irreversible coma.

All 22 newborns in the study suffered from an extreme form of spina bifida where their spinal cord was open at birth and much of their brains were missing, and their kidneys, bladders and digestive systems did not function.

Earlier studies have found that around 10-20 children are euthanised per year in the Netherlands.

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