SENIOR doctors are urging health professionals to consider permitting the euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies.
The proposal, by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, follows the increase in the number of such children surviving because of medical advances.
The college is arguing for "active euthanasia" to be considered for the overall good of parents, sparing them the emotional burden and financial hardship of bringing up the sickest babies.
Their submission to an ethical inquiry into increased survival rates reads: "A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome."
Geneticists and medical ethicists are supporting the proposal - as are some mothers of severely disabled children - but a prominent children's doctor described it as "social engineering".
The college's submission continues: "We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns."
Although the college says it is not formally calling for active euthanasia to be introduced, it wants the mercy killing of newborn babies to be debated by society.
John Wyatt, consultant neonatologist at University College London, said: "Intentional killing is not part of medical care. The majority of doctors and health care professionals believe that once you introduce the possibility of intentional killing into medical practice you change the fundamental nature of medicine."