Euthanasia and newborn infants
Children are occasionally born with such serious disorders that termination of life is regarded as the best option.
The law permits physicians to terminate the lives of newborn infants and to perform late-term abortion only on condition that they fulfil the following due care criteria:
- In the light of prevailing medical opinion, the child’s suffering must be unbearable and with no prospect of improvement. This means that the decision to discontinue treatment is justified. There must be no doubt about the diagnosis and prognosis;
- Both the physician and the parents must be convinced that there is no reasonable alternative solution given the child’s situation;
- The parents must have given their consent for the termination of life;
- The parents must have been fully informed of the diagnosis and prognosis;
- At least one other, independent physician must have examined the child and given a written opinion on compliance with the due care criteria listed above
- The termination must be performed with all due care.
Late term abortion
The Dutch Termination of Pregnancy Act allows abortions to be carried out up to the 24th week of pregnancy. This is the point at which the foetus becomes viable outside the mother’s womb. Late-term abortions – after the 24th week – are excluded from the Termination of Pregnancy Act and fall under the criminal law. Doctors have a duty to notify them to the review committee.
Late-term abortions may be performed only in exceptional circumstances. The following due care criteria apply:
- The unborn child must have a disorder so serious that medical experts believe that medical treatment following the birth will be futile. There must be no doubt about the diagnosis and prognosis;
- The unborn child must be suffering, or must be likely to suffer following its birth, with no prospect of improvement;
- The mother must make an explicit request for the pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the physical or mental suffering the situation is causing her;
- The physician must have given the parents a full explanation of the diagnosis and prognosis. This means that both the physician and the parents must be convinced that there is no reasonable alternative solution given the child’s situation;
- At least one other, independent physician must have examined the child and given a written opinion on compliance with the due care criteria listed above;
- The pregnancy must be terminated with all due care.
Physician notification procedure
Following a late-term abortion or termination of the life of a newborn infant, the physician has an immediate duty to observe the following procedure He must notify the municipal pathologist, who will then contact the Public Prosecution Office.
If it sees no particular reason for delay, the Public Prosecution Service will issue consent for the funeral. Thereafter, the pathologist will send the details of the case to the Central Committee of Experts on late-term abortion and termination of infants.
The pathologist assesses whether the physician has acted with due care. The Committee reports its findings to the Public Prosecution Service. Finally, the Public Prosecution Service decides whether any action should be taken against the physician concerned.