- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

LONDON — A leading British medical college has called on the health profession to consider euthanasia for seriously disabled newborns.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has said that “active euthanasia” should be considered to spare parents the emotional and financial burdens of bringing up such children.

“A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,” it says in a formal submission. “If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”

The call comes in the college’s submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which is conducting an inquiry into the ethical issues raised by the policy of prolonging life in newborns.

The submission states: “We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best-interests test and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management of options available to the sickest of newborns.”

It is not officially calling for the introduction of active euthanasia, but wants it openly debated.

The proposal has been supported by several leading geneticists and medical ethicists.

Joy Delhanty, a professor of human genetics at University College London, said: “I think it is morally wrong to strive to keep alive babies that are going to suffer many months or years of ill-health.”

But John Wyatt, a consultant neonatalologist at University College London hospital, called the proposal “social engineering.”

“Once you introduce the possibility of intentional killing into medical practice, you change the fundamental nature of medicine,” he said.

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