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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Groningen Protocol

Warning: I know I try not to cuss in my posts... I may make an exception here. Just warning you...

Drudge headlines in big red letters: Netherlands Hospital Euthanizes Babies. Your first reaction is horror, revulsion. With good reason.

I clicked on the link, hoping that this was an isolated case, a mistake, perhaps. But no. The Groningen Protocol, named after the hospital that developed the guidelines, would allow doctors to administer lethal doses of sedatives and muscle relaxant to newborns (or others with "no free will"- those in "irreversible comas, those who are severely mentally handicapped, etc.) who are terminally ill or in extreme, persistent pain. This is similar to the laws passed in the Netherlands three years ago, which allowed doctors to provide that "treatment" to adult patients who request it. They claim to have followed the protocol 4 times in 2003.

Later in the article, they quote a staff ethicist for the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC (remind me never to need medical care in Charlotte). You have to read it to believe it:
However, experts acknowledge that doctors euthanize routinely in the United States and elsewhere, but that the practice is hidden.

"Measures that might marginally extend a child's life by minutes or hours or days or weeks are stopped. This happens routinely, namely, every day," said Lance Stell, professor of medical ethics at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and staff ethicist at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. "Everybody knows that it happens, but there's a lot of hypocrisy. Instead, people talk about things they're not going to do."

More than half of all deaths occur under medical supervision, so it's really about management and method of death, Stell said.
No, you asshat, it's not about management and method. It's about lessening the value of human life. It's about some third party determining if a child is worthy of life.

Euthanasia is when you actively cause someone's death. Pulling the plug in order to stop someone's pain (especially if they had made that request known earlier) is not the same as injecting someone with a "Pain No More" cocktail. I'm not opposed to pulling the plug on a respirator if the person has no brain function and cannot live without being forced to breathe. I am against pulling a feeding tube (unless the person had a request that they not use one to begin with). Hell, I'm against not putting IN a feeding tube without expressed wishes to the contrary.

But we're not talking about "pulling the plug." We're talking about killing babies. Not withholding treatment. We're talking about giving them fatal injections.

I've never been in this position, I'll admit that up front. I've never had a child so incredibly ill that I would need to make that kind of call. But I can't imagine any of the parents I know who would give up on their child to the extent that they would ask for the injection. They may withhold treatment, pray for a miracle, but I don't think I know of anyone who would ask that a doctor kill their child.

The potential fallout from this is amazing. Who is terminal? Who decides when enough is enough for a person who has "no free will"? Who decides WHO has no free will? When is it too much pain? When do you give up hope?

In their quest to be compassionate and tolerant and understanding, the government and the medical community in the Netherlands have forgotten two important things. The first- the value of a single human life. The second- the Hippocratic Oath, which they took when they became physicians. The important part?
I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing nor perform, the utmost respect for every human life from fertilization to natural death and reject abortion that deliberately takes a unique human life.

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