Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Euthanasia, while legal for adults, is illegal for children under the age of 12 in the Netherlands. Verhagen, who studied law and medicine, worked out a protocol with prosecutors and doctors in 2002 for infant euthanasia cases. This Groningen protocol requires that parents, doctors and social workers agree that further treatment is futile. After a waiting period of several days, during which the parents can think over the decision and say goodbye, the child is killed, for example with a drip of morphine and midazolam. The documentation of the case is subsequently turned over to the prosecutor's office. If this protocol is followed, prosecutors will refrain from pressing charges.
In 2005, Verhagen and his colleague Pieter Sauer published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, outlining their protocol and documenting 22 cases of infant euthanasia that had been reported to authorities between 1997 and 2004, with 4 of them occurring under Verhagen's supervision at his hospital.
As his motive, Verhagen states that he believes euthanasia to be justified in cases of unbearable suffering, and that it is an important decision that should only happen as the result of an open and honest discussion among the involved parties, rather than as a lone decision of a doctor who is afraid of the consequences.
Verhagen's stand is controversial and he has been called "Dr. Death". He receives large amounts of hate mail from opponents of euthanasia, many being located in the United States.
- Gregory Crouch, A Crusade Born of a Suffering Infant's Cry. The New York Times, 2005-03-19
- John Schwartz, When Torment Is Baby's Destiny, Euthanasia Is Defended. The New York Times, 2005-03-10
- Verhagen and Sauer: The Groningen protocol--euthanasia in severely ill newborns., New England Journal of Medicine, 2005 Mar 10; 352(10):pages 959-962
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