GRONINGEN, March 11, 2005 ( – Infant Euthanasia pioneers argue that because infant euthanasia is often unreported and widespread, having a legal framework in place to regulate the practice would make it safer. 

“Of the 200,000 children born in the Netherlands every year, about 1000 die during the first year of life. For approximately 600 of these infants, death is preceded by a medical decision regarding the end of life,” claim euthanasia advocates and physicians from Groningen University Medical Center, Eduard Verhagen, and Pieter Sauer, writing in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). 

Verhagen and Sauer write that a Netherlands-wide survey of neonatologists revealed that 15-20 cases of euthanasia were committed every year, yet only an average of three were reported annually. Verhagen, also a lawyer, described reviewing district attorney’s records of the 22 reported infant euthanasia deaths for 1997. None of the doctors involved was prosecuted. 

Last year, Verhagen attempted to sway the Dutch government to legalize the practice, after submitting his “Groningen protocol” for determining the suitability of infant euthanasia in individual cases. Verhagen wants to see physicians who follow his guidelines exempted from prosecution for murder. 

See related coverage: 

Dutch Say Child Euthanasia Happening Around the World 

See Verhagen and Sauer’s NEJM report. 

With files from the British Medical Journal.