Thursday August 12, 2010

Dutch Arrest Woman for Committing Infanticide without Doctor Approval

By Peter J. Smith

NIJ BEETS, Netherlands, August 12, 2010 ( – A woman has been arrested for killing her four newborn children and packing their remains away in suitcases in the Netherlands – a country where infanticide is legal as long a doctor administers the dose.

According to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the unnamed 25-year-old woman was a well-known and liked dentist’s assistant in the rural town of Nij Beets, in the Dutch province of Friesland. She managed to keep the infanticides secret for years until her Wednesday arrest, and remains now in police custody.

Police were tipped off by a suspicious neighbor who noted that the woman kept getting visibly pregnant, but never had any children. After authorities found her story of putting up the children for adoption did not pan out, the woman confessed to the murders and showed them where the infants’ corpses lay: packed away in suitcases in her parents’ attic.

The children were reportedly born between 2002 and 2010. Her parents, with whom she has been living, have denied any knowledge of their daughter’s pregnancies.

The Dutch woman’s infanticides, however, are the latest in a string of media reports of at least three women in France, who had also committed multiple infanticides.

Despite local shock and outrage at the infanticides, Dutch case law permits the killing of newborns for “unbearable suffering” by doctors following a checklist called the Groningen Protocol.

“The Groningen Protocol for Euthanasia in Newborns” – its official title – was developed by doctors at the Groningen University Medical Center in 2002 with the cooperation of the Dutch Prosecution Office. Its principal author, Dr. Eduard Verhagen, MD, explained the protocol’s requirements: “The diagnosis and prognosis must be certain; Hopeless and unbearable suffering must be present; The diagnosis, prognosis, and unbearable suffering must be confirmed by at least one independent doctor; Both parents must give informed consent; The procedure must be performed in accordance with the accepted medical standard.”

Under these conditions, the Dutch accept “eugenic infanticide” – estimating 15-20 official infant killings per year. The doctor informs a coroner of the infant euthanasia, who then reports the killing to the district attorney. Most of the infants killed have been those diagnosed with spina bifida.

Dutch pediatric neurosurgeon Rob de Jong criticized the Groningen Protocol in the medical journal “Child’s Nervous System” arguing that it is difficult to prove that the suffering of an infant is or will remain unbearable. In an article discussing infants with spina bifida, De Jong cited a number of cases of physicians who, in retrospect, have been forced to acknowledge that their initial diagnosis was incorrect. (see coverage)

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith at his First Things blog wryly opined that perhaps authorities planned to charge the woman “with practicing medicine without a license.”

“So, what’s the difference between the accused woman and doctors who kill babies? An MD license? The use of a lethal injection? Or is it bigotry against babies who will have disabilities or have terminal diseases?” said Smith. “Perhaps the woman’s defense will be she didn’t want them to suffer by being adopted.”

For further reading:

The Groningen Protocol — Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns by Dr. Eduard Verhagen, MD

See related coverage by

SHOCK: Newborns Who Suffer are “Better off Dead” – “World’s Most Prestigious” Bioethics Journal

Paediatric Neurosurgeons Criticize Dutch Practice of Euthanasia on Babies With Spina Bifida

Italian Minister Accuses Holland of “Nazism” for Euthanasia Laws

Holland to Allow Baby Euthanasia

Infant Euthanasia Underreported in Netherlands, Study Finds