UK Docs: “Active Euthanasia” on Disabled Newborns Will Cut Abortion Rates

Mon Nov 6, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

By Gudrun Schultz

LONDON, United Kingdom, November 6, 2006 ( ) - Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has put forth a proposal calling for the active euthanasia of babies born with serious health problems, the Times reported Sunday. One argument the doctors are using is that the possibility of killing newborns after birth will reduce “late abortions”.

The college is arguing that medical advances which allow severely disabled babies to survive more often and with longer life spans make the option of “active euthanasia” necessary for the wellbeing of families.

“A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,” the proposal said. “If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”

The proposal was directed to an ongoing inquiry into the ethical issues surrounding medical treatment of newborns with severe birth defects, carried out by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

“We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia,” the college stated in the submission to the inquiry, “as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest newborns.”

The college denied that it was formally requesting the introduction of active euthanasia, saying it wants to open debate on the issue in UK society.

While the proposal doesn’t specify which specific conditions would make a child a candidate for euthanasia, the Netherlands’ Groningen Protocol, considered the prototype program for infant euthanasia by advocates, targets babies born with non-curable but not necessarily terminal conditions such as spina bifida and epidermolysis bullosa, a rare and painful skin condition.

Doctors who strongly oppose euthanasia as a response to disability and suffering include John Wyatt, consultant neonatologist at University College London hospital, who told the Times, “Intentional killing is not part of medical care.”

“The majority of doctors and health professionals believe that once you introduce the possibility of intentional killing into medical practice you change the fundamental nature of medicine. It immediately becomes a subjective decision as to whose life is worthwhile,” Dr. Wyatt said.

“It changes medicine into a form of social engineering where the aim is to maximise the benefit for society and minimise those who are perceived as worthless.”

Simone Aspis, speaking for the British Council of Disabled People, said, “If we introduced euthanasia for certain conditions it would tell adults with those conditions that they were worth less than other members of society.”

The Netherlands’ recently-adopted program of infant euthanasia was co-authored by Dr. Pieter Sauer. He told the Times the practice should be legalized in the UK , since he knew of British doctors who already euthanized disabled infants.

Bioethics professor John Harris, with the Manchester University and a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission, said the law permitting abortion of disabled babies up until birth was reason enough to permit infanticide of disabled newborns.

“We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the fetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he said.

  To express concerns to Prime Minister Tony Blair
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Read Times coverage:,,2087-2437921,00.html

See related


UK Government Backs “Euthanasia by Neglect”

Dutch Euthanasia Doctor Admits to Killing 4 Newborns With Lethal Injections

Holland to Allow Baby Euthanasia

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