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Death by Committee

What the Groningen Protocol says about our world, and where it might lead next.

11:00 PM, Dec 1, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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WHEN NEWS of the Groningen Protocol surfaced in October, it was reported in the Grand Forks Herald,though I didn't read of it, nor apparently did many others. The Groningen Protocol could have been the stuff of a fine presidential debate question, or a series of questions, but I doubt if any of the debate moderators or either of the presidential candidates had heard of it either. It is an intriguing title, but it should enter the history books as shorthand for an appalling brutality, so appalling in fact, that "The Groningen Protocol" could have been an entry on the agenda at the Wannsee Conference.

The Groningen Protocol is the proposal of doctors in the Netherlands for the establishment of an "independent committee" charged with selecting babies and other severely handicapped or disabled people for euthanasia. The original article provides some of the key details:

Under the Groningen protocol, if doctors at the hospital think a child is suffering unbearably from a terminal condition, they have the authority to end the child's life. The protocol is likely to be used primarily for newborns, but it covers any child up to age 12.

The hospital, beyond confirming the protocol in general terms, refused to discuss its details.

"It is for very sad cases," said a hospital spokesman, who declined to be identified. "After years of discussions, we made our own protocol to cover the small number of infants born with such severe disabilities that doctors can see they have extreme pain and no hope for life. Our estimate is that it will not be used but 10 to 15 times a year."

A parent's role is limited under the protocol. While experts and critics familiar with the policy said a parent's wishes to let a child live or die naturally most likely would be considered, they note that the decision must be professional, so rests with doctors.

On Tuesday the AP carried a second story, and Drudge broadcast the news to the cyber world: The protocol was already in effect, and at least four babies had been deemed disposable, and killed.

This is either a low point, or a point of no return. The establishment of "independent committees" to dispatch non-consenting humans is nothing but a death penalty committee for innocents. Once begun, it is impossible--simply impossible--to limit the concept with any bright line. Abortion, of course, has always been limited by the physical act of birth, and once out of the womb, only the most extreme "reproductive rights" advocates have argued that the baby's natural right to live can be compromised by the mother. But now the Netherlands has gone farther--much, much farther. If the "severely retarded" may be killed upon appropriate motion, second, debate, and majority vote, why not the moderately retarded? Why not the mildly retarded? Why not, in fact, anyone the "independent committee" deems as usefully dispatched.

Incredibly, the nation's elite media has turned a collective blind eye to this story, though the Los Angeles Times did, on the day following the Drudge headline, find time to put on the paper's front page, above the fold, the story that Salmon and Steelhead May Lose Protection, but not a column inch of ink for a radical leap past Kevorkian land into the regions of Mengele.

LAST WEEK I marveled at the casual manner with which the Target Corporation announced that the Salvation Army could no longer place its kettles and ring its bells outside the giant retailer's 1,500+ stores. It was a callous and Scrooge-like act, one that I and thousands of others found sufficiently appalling as to oblige us not to shop at the store this season. I noted the irony of a retailer grown fat on Christmas gift sales tossing the charity most closely aligned with the public's image of Christmas spirit.

How foolish to imagine that actions such as Target's would offend greatly when protocol's such as Groningen's pass without comment before the eyes of editorialists and talking heads. Four years into the new century, and one can only guess where it will end. I do not think it is safe to bet that these next 96 years will be less bloody that the years 1905 to 1999.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.