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Baby euthanasia debate call

7th November 2006

05042006_baby_ward.jpgDoctors have called for public discussions on proposals for the ‘mercy killing’ of severely disabled babies.

Improvements in medical technology now mean very premature and ill babies can survive, although some with severe disabilities.

Now fierce criticism has been levelled at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists who want to debate whether ‘deliberate intervention’ to cause death should be legalised. The college said it was not necessarily in favour of the move, but felt it should be debated.

Medics can already withdraw treatment in some cases, but the college wants a more radical think about ‘active euthanasia’ decisions which would be taken over days, weeks and even months in consultation with parents.

The comments came as part of the college’s submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which is carrying out an inquiry into the viability of life.

The British Council of Disabled People said no one should be denied life, and the Life charity marked the difference between withdrawing invasive treatment that has become futile, and taking action to intentionally end life. Critics have also suggested the decisions would be made based more on cost than quality of life.

Doctors have mixed views over the suggestions, while some consider it a form of social engineering, others felt these decisions were already being made through withdrawing treatment and the debate was more about ensuring it was done in the most humane way possible.


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