Doctors draw up rules to ease death of dying babies

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Doctors should be allowed to end the lives of babies born with no chance of survival if their parents can no longer bear the pain of watching them die, the Dutch doctors' association KNMG has decided.

The new guidelines apply to babies with no chance of survival and who have been taken off breathing apparatus, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday. They are contained in a new report which will be published later in the day.

The criteria state that doctors should be able to give drugs to relax the muscles of such babies if their parents are suffering terribly by seeing their offspring die slowly.


While most babies taken off breathing apparatus die quickly, others can continue to survive. Paediatrician Eduard Verhagen, one of the compilers of the new report, told the Volkskrant parents and doctors often ask themselves if it is really necessary to see a dying baby go through so much.

'The children turn grey and cold, they get blue lips and they gasp deeply every two minutes or so for breath,' he said. 'It is terrible to see and it can last hours, sometimes days.'

Doctors will be required to report the circumstances of the death to a central monitoring body.

Some 650 babies die at birth every year in the Netherlands, the Volkskrant says. Around half are too premature to survive, the others have serious birth defects and cannot be treated.


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