Baby Euthanasia: The Final Solution?

Holland, which already allows the practice of euthanasia, or assisted suicide, for adults who have expressed a desire to die if they are afflicted with a terminal illness and lose the ability to function, is now going to allow euthanasia for babies with terminal illnesses, in consultation with the parents and doctors.

Under the so-called Groningen protocol, a doctor would be able to end the life of a terminally ill baby in cases of “unbearable suffering” when the baby has no chance of surviving anyway.

“If a child is untreatably ill,” Verhagen explained, “there can be horrendous suffering that makes the last few days or weeks of this child’s life unbearable. Now the question is: are you going to leave the child like that or are you going to prevent that suffering?” He went on: “Does the child have to sit it out until the end? We think that the answer is no. There can be circumstances where, under very strict conditions, if all the requirements are fulfilled, active ending of life can be an option – but only in cases of untreatable disease and unbearable suffering.”

This is what happens to terminally ill babies with no hope of survival today.

Verhagen, a 42-year-old father of three who has spent years tending sick children in underdeveloped countries, became a paediatrician with the intention of saving children’s lives, not ending them. Then along came a case that changed his entire way of thinking.

Sanne had a severe form of Hallopeau-Siemens syndrome, which meant that her skin would detach itself from her body if anyone touched it. The membranes inside her mouth and oesophagus fell away whenever they tried to feed her through a tube.

To experts, it is obvious when babies are in pain, and not only because of the type of shrieking. The way they clench their fists is another indicator. This was a child in great pain but pain relievers seemed to make no difference; and every time nurses replaced her bandages a little more of her skin fell off. She came to resemble a mummy. Verhagen did not know what to do.

Her parents demanded an end to her suffering and, for the first time in his career, Verhagen considered euthanasia. Fearing prosecution, however, he sent the child home, where she died of pneumonia six months later.

When reports of the Groningen protocol first surfaced in late 2004, so-called “compassionate conservatives” were up in arms, comparing it to the Nazi final solution.

This is either a low point, or a point of no return. The establishment of “independent committees” to dispatch non-consenting humans is nothing but a death penalty committee for innocents. Once begun, it is impossible–simply impossible–to limit the concept with any bright line. Abortion, of course, has always been limited by the physical act of birth, and once out of the womb, only the most extreme “reproductive rights” advocates have argued that the baby’s natural right to live can be compromised by the mother. But now the Netherlands has gone farther–much, much farther. If the “severely retarded” may be killed upon appropriate motion, second, debate, and majority vote, why not the moderately retarded? Why not the mildly retarded? Why not, in fact, anyone the “independent committee” deems as usefully dispatched.

Why not? Let’s just kill any baby that doesn’t live up to our genetic standards! We’ll finally be able to create the Aryan master race our Führer dreamed of! Heil Hitler!

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s even come anywhere close to suggesting creating a master race through baby euthanasia, except for the so-called “compassionate conservatives.”

As far advanced as our medical science has become, there are still many diseases and disorders which are not only quite lethal but for which we have no cure. We’re talking about babies who, in their short lives on this earth, will know nothing but the most severe suffering. Is it really the moral high ground to sit back and watch for months on end, listening to the constant, relentless screams of a baby in severe, unbearable pain, until the child finally dies? Or can the parents, after consulting with their doctors, getting a second opinion, and some oversight by an independent committee, make the decision that their baby should not have to continue suffering?

I leave to you the decision you would make for yourself and your family. As for me, if I am ever terminally ill with not only no hope of recovery but no hope of ever getting out of my hospital bed again, then that’s time to pull the plug.

  1. This is exactly the type of “slippery slope” absurdity we can expect from the short-sided mindset that insists that suffering trumps relief.

    I remember hearing about the Dutch “solution” during the Terri Schiavo case. Of course, the “conservative” slant only bothered to state that Doctors in Holland were killing sick and deformed babies, leaving the Nazi-like conclusion as the next, unspoken stop in the reader’s mind.

  2. Artus,

    Your comment implying that Steve is saying that “suffering trumps relief” is a complete misrepresentation of his position. Either you didn’t really read what he wrote, or you are intentionally twisting it.

    Which part of “no hope of recovery” did you not understand, or choose to ignore?

    Go back to square one, or the first grade, whichever is appropriate, and read it again.


  3. Oops,

    Apologies to Michael Hampton. I so deeply think of Hammer of Truth as Steve Gordon’s blog that I committed my own misread.

    Nothing else of what I said changes, however.


  4. Heh, I usually think of it as Stephen VanDyke’s blog. :)

    As for Artus, I think you did indeed misread his position, as well. It doesn’t look like he thinks “suffering trumps relief” at all.

  5. Allen,

    I may be wrong, but it looks like Artus was suggesting that “suffering trumps relief” was a “short-sided mindset” that was a “slippery slope absurdity”. Meaning Artus does not agree with the idea that suffering trumps relief.

  6. I’ve always thought that, if I had a terminal disease, I’d start shooting up smack, dob myself in to a metamphetamined SWAT team, overdose and go out in a blaze of gory (sic!) when they try to kill me to rescue me from suicide and drugs. I’d play, full volume, Alice Coopers’ “Dead Babies”. “Dead babies, you can leave them on the shelf, they can take care of themselves”.

  7. Now this is a libertarian stand I can support. If you don’t want the little critter because it is not perfect, kill it. Great population control and only the best will be allowed to live.

    I knew libertarian thought would finally converge with my beliefs, kill em if they are unfit to live.

    Great going! I may be a libertarian after all.

  8. Whoa!

    Wait….I can not support infanticide. This is one position that I do not agree with my fellow Libertarians with. I am strictly pro-life. If God wanted you to have a different type of child he would have done it himself! Abortion, Infanticide, cloning is WRONG! Don’t try to e-mail me to change my mind cause this issue is set in stone with me.

  9. Tell me why God creates a child which is so flawed from birth that it not only won’t survive to see its first birthday, but will spend virtually all of that time in pain so severe and so unrelenting that … should I record an MP3 file of the baby’s screaming and invite you to listen for yourself? … What sort of God would torture a soul, not to mention the baby’s parents, in this way? Please, explain this to me.

  10. What about all the babies who were aborted and had nothing wrong with them? Explain that? There is a reason why God wants it this way and it’s not up to MAN to play GOD.

    Personally, you can do whatever you want but I’m not risking being sent to eternal damnation for playing GOD for my personal gain.

  11. Abortion has nothing to do with this. We’re talking about ending the suffering of the terminally ill who are unable to say for themselves whether they want their suffering ended.

    If you believe such terminally ill patients must suffer until they die naturally, I certainly can’t stop you or change your mind.

    But I can’t say, confronted by those screams of relentless, untreatable agony, the likes of which are not otherwise seen outside of Hell, that I would make the same choice.

  12. Euthanasia is wrong simply because the value of a human being is so high that nothing outweighs it, and no person should ever have the power to say that another person’s life should be ended. If you say that one reason is sufficent, then you have no logical reason to say that another reason is not sufficient: you can only make practical arguments.

    As for:
    Tell me why God creates a child which is so flawed from birth, etc.

    He creates it as an opportunity for other people to exercise their powers of love. But euthanasia is false love, and to go that way is to reject the opportunity.

  13. I couldn’t kill the child if it were my baby… and honestly, I’m conflicted whether anyone should be able to. Pragmatically, I’d say yes, end the suffering. But that’s not principled… the baby cannot choose for its own self whether to live or die, so the assumption would have to be to preserve the choice by keeping it alive until it could choose for itself.

    So to conclude… I haven’t really concluded anything. This is one headfuck of a quandary.

  14. Either you didn’t really read what he wrote, or you are intentionally twisting it.

    You obviously didn’t read what I wrote or you would know it was neither.

    Go back to square one, or the first grade, whichever is appropriate, and read it again.

    You would do well to heed your own advise as you are clearly incapable of comprehending simple language.
    I wrote:

    This is exactly the type of “slippery slope” absurdity we can expect from the short-sided mindset that insists that suffering trumps relief.

    Simplified explanation for Allen Hacker: I agree with Mr. Hampton’s position. My response was echoing his point that comparisons to the “final solution” are unfounded. The “this” I referred to was the “short-sided mindset” that clearly favors suffering. The obviously limited scenarios in which this can occur eliminates and serious comparison to a Hitlerian “final solution.”

  15. Despite the recent comments to the contrary, this isn’t about imperfection, flaws or the absence of a desired eye color–it is a situation allowing for death before anymore “unbearable suffering” occurs.

    As is usually the case, the careful wording of the law–and in this case, my comments—went completely ignored.

  16. “What about all the babies who were aborted and had nothing wrong with them?”

    I dont think anyone has ever aborted a baby, however, people do abort fetuses.

  17. My wife, a doc, and I had this conversation yet again tonight. The outcome:

    Due consideration of the latest medical and scientific journal entries then trust the other to make the best decision possible based on the best information available.

    No artificial brain dead prolongation, but no stupid risks, either.

    Just common sense, shoved up …

  18. Stirring up the pot here, basically — what about ending someone else’s unbearable suffering (such as, say, an infant whose skin literally peels away whenever it is touched) *MY* personal gain? Am I the one whose suffering and pain are alleviated?

    Me, personally, from early childhood onto early adulthood I experienced daily, unabating, often-debilitating/paralyzing pain.

    I’m still here and standing. But the difference between what I went through and the example case given? My condition was treatable/survivable. That child — and many born throughout the world if infrequently — was not. If dying’s the best available option … then why not at least consider it?


  19. “Whoa!

    Wait….I can not support infanticide. This is one position that I do not agree with my fellow Libertarians with. I am strictly pro-life. If God wanted you to have a different type of child he would have done it himself! Abortion, Infanticide, cloning is WRONG! Don’t try to e-mail me to change my mind cause this issue is set in stone with me.”

    There would be no abortions if god did not will it. Stop meddling with gods plans and let the people do as they will!


    God totally eats babies for breakfast.

  20. Chris,

    You don’t disagree with your “fellow libertarians,” because nobody supporting the particular scenario described could conceivably be described as a “libertarian.”

    There are a lot of “fine line” scenarios in which it might be difficult to tell, or debatable, whether one is operating from a libertarian premise or not. The idea of setting up government-approved boards to authorize the active killing of non-brain-dead individuals who have been convicted of no crime is not one of those scenarios.

    Tom Knapp

  21. Lol, that’s so slanted to attach libertarianism and government regulation in order to slant opinion in favor of your belief Knapp.

    I think we’re having a discussion here about whether or not it’s ok to put a baby in intolerable pain with no expectation to live out of it’s god forsaken misery, not whether the regulatory boards behind the decision making process are government appointed or not. They aren’t telling us what to do, they’re giving us more options. Generally I think more options as opposed to less are something we can agree with.

    Granted this is a libertarian board, but some things transcend politics. Suffering babies for one I think qualify.

  22. I think it’s also quite Libertarian of the state to allow the parents to decide whether their child suffers needlessly or not, as opposed to the state telling them that their child absolutely MUST suffer needlessly due to some people’s religious views against that decision, to be more to the point.

  23. Excellent comments. Social conservatism is social fascism. At least with the system in the Netherlands, there is less likely to be abuse. Accountability and reporting standards are good things. As it is in countries where euthanasia is illegal, the doctors rarely get charged, let along convicted.

    I hate the religious right in Australia. In the face of many, MANY polls supporting euthanasia, the ‘Liberal’ party won’t allow it.

    And yet, terminal sedation and euthanasia via double effect is allowed. How hypocritical.

  24. Torfinn,

    I was very specific in what I wrote, and I was very specific for a REASON.

    A baby is either a person or it isn’t.

    If a baby is a person, then no libertarian would hold that a government stamp will make it okay to kill it without its permission.

    If a baby is not a person, then it’s property, and no libertarian would hold that the owner of an item of property should be required to get a government stamp before disposing of said property in whatever manner the owner deems proper (unles said disposal violates someone else’s rights, in which case said stamp wouldn’t make it okay, either).

    Now, I happen to have an opinion on whether a baby is a person or property, but that opinion is irrelevant to whether or not a libertarian could support the Netherlands scenario. That scenario fails regardless of whether one classifies a baby as person or property.

    Tom Knapp

  25. Well, thanks for continuing the argument in a civilized manner, people seem to fail so regularly at that lately online it seems.

    I think we’ve come to an ethical impasse that cannot be breached.

    I can’t agree with your statement, obviously a baby is a person, but not a person with the capability or advancement to make such decisions. If you were to teach the baby sign language odds are in simple form it would only know that it wanted to stop hurting. Who really knows though?

    Under this premise, is a chimpanzee a person if it has more intelligence than the baby? What of it’s rights? Where do we draw the varying degrees of humanity that exist among us? There are no clear definitions.

    I think that’s why it’s up to the parents to decide. Realistically, I think it’s a much harder decision for them watching THEIR child suffering, than it is for one of us to make from our couch simply imagining the scenario.

  26. Torfinn,

    I understand your argument (and sympathize with it). That’s why I tried to be very specific.

    The issues with respect to both the unborn (from just-fertilized embryo to near-birth fetus) and the recently born are vexing to libertarians. A lot depends on when you believe a human being becomes a “person” — a sapient being with rights which others are morally bound to respect.

    Some libertarians believe a human being is a “person” from conception, or becomes one at some later point prior to or at birth. If this is so, it becomes difficult to say that someone else can make the decision that that “person” should be killed without his or her consent.

    Other libertarians believe a human being only becomes a “person” when he or she becomes “sapient” — and that until then, said being is just like any other animal: Property, although usually very valued property.

    My point was just that in neither case would it be considered to leave disposition of life up to government bureaucrats.

  27. Tom,

    In the Dutch example, government was offering a choice, not making one. The allowance was given to parents to decide the fate of the infant. Your last comment about leaving the “disposition of life up to government bureaucrats” misses the point.

  28. well i must say i neeed help with this matter and if anyone can e-mail me that would br appreciated