Killing or caring?
New England Journal of Medicine publishes the Groningen protocol for euthanasia in severely ill newborn babies, Tony Sheldon talks to its author, Eduard Verhaxgen
“It's time to be honest. All over the world doctors end lives discreetly, out of compassion.” With these words Eduard Verhagen, clinical director of paediatrics at University Medical Centre Groningen, in the Netherlands, gained international notoriety.
He has sparked a professional debate over whether, in exceptional cases, it is humane to kill extremely sick newborn babies if medical treatment cannot alleviate their suffering. His study of Dutch practice offers a unique insight into a reality of modern medicine (New England Journal of Medicine 2005;352:959; Nederlands Tijdschrift Geneeskunde 2005;149:183-8).
Verhagen asks, “If I have no techniques, no options to treat, if palliative care is not an option, what do I do? Do I send the child away, or really help it and hasten its death? We are not making this up. Horrible diseases do exist where a child is suffering unbearably but will not die immediately.”
Last autumn he attempted to