The Legal Protection of Premature and Critically Ill Neonates: Can South Africa Learn from the Netherlands?
Journal of Contemporary Roman-Dutch Law, Vol. 80, p. 211-227, 2017
17 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2017
Date Written: May 1, 2017
Although euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, neonates do not meet the requirements in terms of the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act. After witnessing the unbearable pain of a baby girl who suffered from dystrophic epidermolysis, paediatricians at the University Medical Centre in Groningen drafted the Groningen Protocol with the assistance of the local prosecutor. The purpose of the Protocol is to provide doctors with guidelines to end the life of a neonate who is terminally ill and pain killers do not have the desired effect. In terms of the Groningen Protocol it is essential that when the life of an ill neonate is deliberately ended, the requirements of due care must be met otherwise the doctor may be criminally prosecuted. The requirements for due care are set out in the Protocol. The Groningen Protocol is a controversial document and was severely criticised by academics and physicians. Despite criticism it was accepted for use throughout the Netherlands. Euthanasia is still illegal in South Africa although more people are beginning to speak out in favour of it. The article recommends that the South African position concerning the end of life of a critically ill neonate be reviewed and that consideration be given to the position in the Netherlands.
Keywords: euthanasia, neonates, terminally ill, Groningen Protocol
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