By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

NETHERLANDS, January 16, 2008 ( – Dutch paediatric neurosurgeon Rob de Jong, in collaboration with peers from several other countries, has expressed his concern at the practice in the Netherlands of carrying out euthanasia on some babies born with spina bifida in an article in the medical journal Child’s Nervous System.

According to a report by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the lives of a small number of babies are terminated each year by doctors who, together with the parents, believe the infant is experiencing unbearable suffering and will continue to suffer in this way in the future.

In his article “Deliberate Termination of Life of Newborns with Spina Bifida, a Critical Reappraisal”, Dr. de Jong argues that it is difficult to prove that the suffering of a baby or infant is or will remain unbearable, and cites a number of cases of physicians who, in retrospect, have been forced to acknowledge that their initial diagnosis was incorrect.

Dr. de Jong says he bases his case on medical evidence, not on ethical arguments that have normally been at the centre of nearly all discussions about euthanasia.

The Dutch Paediatric Association’s guidelines for the active termination of life, that is, the performance of euthanasia on babies and infants, known as the Groningen Protocol, states that: 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.

Dr. de Jong contends that such a medical diagnosis/prognosis cannot be given with the requisite certainty given the many variables and uncertainties involved.

The Dutch Paediatric Association spokesman Dr. Eduard Verhagen has dismissed the criticism expressed by Dr. de Jong and his foreign colleagues, saying “they use too many technical arguments” and that all factors were looked at in depth when drawing up the protocol, so he sees no reason why the entire discussion should be repeated.

See related coverage:

Dutch Euthanasia Doctor Admits to Killing 4 Newborns With Lethal Injections