It will be legal to euthanize children in Holland within a few weeks. Doctors will now be able to collaborate openly with parents for the deaths of severely handicapped or suffering children, without risking charges of murder.

The country has set up a committee to regulate the illicit killing of seriously ill infants by doctors. The Groningen Protocol, drafted by euthanist Dr. Verhagen of the Groningen hospital and adopted by the committee, will allow doctors to kill children who are suffering extreme pain from terminal illness, with no hope of recovery. The parents must give consent and two doctors must agree on the child’s diagnosis.

Adult euthanasia has been legal in Holland since 2001, but this is the first time a country has allowed parents and doctors to kill a child. Doctors in Holland already “help to die” at least 15 babies every year, with no legal consequences.

The suffering caused by bizarre genetic disorders is frequently used to justify child euthanasia. In fact, a more frequent cause for euthanasia has been the more commonly occurring disorder spina bifida. Between 2002 and 2004, Groningen hospital began reporting cases of infant euthanasia to authorities; all deaths were of infants with spina bifida.

This article originally appeared on March 7. Reprinted with permission.