Ernst Kuipers, Health Minister of the Netherlands, wants to introduce the possibility of euthanasia for children between the ages of one and 12 if they are suffering “unbearably and hopelessly.” He wrote this in the draft of a regulation, called L1-12, which he sent to the House of Representatives for its opinion on the “relevant parts.”
The call for an implementing regulation, and not an amendment to the country’s existing euthanasia law, came from Dutch pediatricians’ associations, which are concerned that parliamentary intervention in existing legislation could polarize the debate and create delays in the legislative process, where physicians instead see an urgent need for a group of children, apparently very few in number, who have been suffering for some time with no hope of recovery and, according to them, no effective palliative care.
Current law in the Netherlands allows access to euthanasia for persons over the age of 12, that is, if the so-called “prerequisites of self-determination and competence” are met. On the other hand, for children under one year of age, there is the Groningen Protocol, approved in 2005, drafted by a group of pediatricians in consultation with the Ministries of Health, Welfare and Sports and Justice and Security.
Based on that protocol, Minister Kuipers would now like to apply the same guidelines in cases of children 12 months to 12 years old, with seven “due diligence criteria” that would have to be met.
The protocol could be applied if the following issues are met. “The physician must be convinced, based on ‘prevailing medical intuition, that the child is in desperate and unbearable pain,'” including obtaining a second opinion from an independent expert. The doctor must also believe that there is no other option to relieve the child’s suffering.
The physician must “fully” share the diagnosis and prognosis with both parents and discuss it with the child in a “manner appropriate to the child’s understanding.” This discussion must include whether “ending life is the only reasonable option for removing suffering.” The doctor should have no suspicions that euthanasia is taking place against the child’s wishes. Right, a 12-month old is surely capable of understanding the concept of dying and is also able to give consent to it.
Also, both parents must consent. Finally, euthanasia must be carried out through ‘medical treatment.'”
The concern of Professor Theo Boer, a Dutch professor of health care ethics, who was first a supporter but in the face of evidence became a proud opponent of euthanasia, interviewed by iFamNews back in October 2021, now takes on extremely realistic and distressing contours.