Baby Care :: Active euthenasia for disabled infants?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has raised an issue to debate over euthanasia for severely disabled newborn infants. The call was made in a submission to an ethical inquiry into increased survival rates of disabled children.

The college says that the burden of a disabled child is often too great for parents both emotionally and financially. They also argue that the option would encourage more parents to let a pregnancy go to term where there was a risk of disability.

The proposal is supported by many medical professionals and some parents of severely disabled children. Opponents describe it as social engineering.

The college called for ?active euthanasia? of newborns to be considered as part of an inquiry into the ethical issues raised by the policy of prolonging life in newborn babies. The inquiry is being carried out by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

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

Initially, the inquiry did not address euthanasia of newborns as this is illegal in Britain. The college has succeeded in having it considered. Although it says it is not formally calling for active euthanasia to be introduced, it wants the mercy killing of newborn babies to be debated by society.

The report does not spell out which conditions might justify euthanasia, but in the Netherlands mercy killing is permitted for a range of incurable conditions, including severe spina bifida and the painful skin condition called epidermolysis bullosa.

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