Line Blurring Between Dutch and Nazi Euthanasia

Warns Bioethicist in Rome

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ROME, SEPT. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The distance between the Dutch and Nazi practices of euthanasia has disappeared with the Netherlands' recent decision to allow infants and newborns to be put to death, warns a bioethicist.



Dr. Claudia Navarini, professor of the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, made that assessment in the wake of the August agreement between the Dutch magistracy and the Groningen University Clinic.

The agreement extends the practice of euthanasia, already regulated under a 2002 law, to children under age 12, including newborns.

Another observer, Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, similarly warned: "Officially the objective is to put an end to 'unbearable suffering'; in reality, human persons can be killed without their consent."

In statements to ZENIT, Navarini said: "Infant and newborn euthanasia" is justified as "the 'right' of children to have, like their elders, a painless death."

This, she said, is "to propose a death valued according to criteria 'of quality,' like any product ... controlling its manner and moment."

However, there has been a substantial shift in arguments in favor of euthanasia, Navarini noted. At least since the end of World War II, the emphasis in some countries was on "euthanasia by request" or "consensual," she said.

This was an attempt to be distanced from "Nazi euthanasia, which corresponded to state eugenics, doing away -- even without consent and eventually with deceit -- with citizens considered of lesser value, such as the handicapped, mentally ill, the gravely ill and the dying," Navarini continued.

The line between Nazi euthanasia and what is accepted now in the Netherlands has been dulled, she contended, given that in the case of the euthanasia of newborns or children there is no question of acceptance by the patient.

Hence the act of euthanasia "is no longer an 'act of mercy' because of the unbearable pain, but an act of intolerance of the one suffering," the bioethicist said.

"The result is that the distance between the Dutch and Nazi euthanasia practices has been suddenly annulled, and the 'precautions' of the 'most rigorous protocol' of which Dr. Eduard Verhagen, the person in charge of the pediatric section of the Dutch clinic, was speaking, seem less than convincing," she added.

With the recent decision of the Dutch magistracy, we are "before what the president of the National Bioethics Committee" of Italy, "Francesco D'Agostino, defines as 'poorly concealed state pseudo-eugenics,'" contended Navarini.