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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 03:17 GMT
Dutch consider infant euthanasia
By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC News, The Hague

Baby in an incubator
The proposed rules would apply to very few Dutch babies
Doctors in the Netherlands are calling for new laws allowing them to end the lives of newborn babies with intolerable and incurable illnesses.

The appeal for a committee of experts to be set up to consider the issue has been signed by doctors from the country's eight university hospitals.

The Dutch government will give its opinion over the next few months.

The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise euthanasia in 2002.

The proposed committee of experts would define the specific criteria that would apply to this type of infant euthanasia.

Vatican criticism

The protocol would relate to only about 600 infants in the world - and between 10 and 15 in The Netherlands.

These children are born with extreme malformations. For instance they may have no brain.

The move has revived the debate on the controversial issue of euthanasia.

One university hospital has already drawn up a document setting out the circumstances in which euthanasia of newborn babies could be justified.

The text has been strongly criticised by the Vatican.

In the Netherlands, euthanasia can be given to people over 16, and to those over 12 in exceptional cases.

Doctors here say paediatricians worldwide are in favour of ending the lives of newborns in certain circumstances.

In France, 74% believe it should be acceptable, and in the Netherlands 72%.

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