The NY Times Magazine had this past weekend a short piece detailing the rise of medical infanticide in the Netherlands. This brand of infanticide might more accurately be referred to as child euthanasia, I guess, since we are dealing with extremely ill children.
At first blush, I can think of few things more repulsive.
My problem with this practice is tempered somewhat by my overwhelming desire to help ease the suffering of children. Anyone who has been to a children’s hospital has probably felt this urge to take the pain away at any cost. I can see how a desire to end pain can turn into a practice of euthanasia. So when I read about the Groningen Protocol and its standards for giving children shots of morphine and midazolam, I think I understand the motivation. I can understand the argument that to prolong a life of suffering may be considered a wrongful act. In other words, I feel like I can see both sides of the issue.
But there is an aspect to the euthanasia of children that seems insurmountable to me, and that is the issue of choice. As Charles Lehardy laid out at his blog AnotherThink, euthanasia typically depends upon the informed and uncoerced consent of the patient, something conspicuously absent in the case of children. Parents act as guardians for their children, but they do not entirely supplant the child’s free will. How do people get around that, ethically? Or is it just a matter of a stronger desire to end suffering that overrides all other demands? How far can this boundless (and perhaps twisted) compassion take us?