UK experts call for debate on euthanasia for seriously disabled newborns

The prestigious Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology in Britain has suggested that there needs to be open debate about the extent that doctors should go to when it comes to ensuring the survival of seriously disabled babies.

The College in a report is asking doctors to consider euthanizing disabled and sick newborns and says the suggestion has arisen as a result of the rising number of newborns who are able to survive because of medical advances.

The college says the birth of such children often devastates families who suffer both emotional and financial hardships.

The College says the severely disabled babies who until recently would not have survived, are now able to do so because of medical advances and euthanasia should be considered in some cases.

Support for the proposal has apparently come from both parents of severely disabled babies, medical ethicists and geneticists but concern has been expressed by others that the suggestion smacks of social engineering.

The report says that if obstetricians were allowed to carry out active euthanasia, some patients would be more inclined to wait till birth, rather than carrying out late abortions.

In the report submitted to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the College is calling for a working party to consider non-resuscitation and the withdrawal of treatment to be an option in some cases along with active euthanasia.

The euthanasia of newborns, regardless of how sick and disabled they are, is illegal in the United Kingdom and the college confirms it is at this stage merely asking for a debate on the matter.

However it is known that doctors in the UK do privately admit that mercy killings of newborns does take place.

The euthanasia of newborns is allowed in the Netherlands for a range of incurable conditions cases such as severe spina bifida and the skin condition epidermolysis bullosa.

The suggestion is part of an answer to ethical questions concerning prolonging life in newborn babies.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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