Last year, doctors at the Groningen Academic Hospital in the Netherlands applied for permission to perform euthanasia on babies — even as they admitted they were already doing so. In 2003, the Dutch Medical Society appealed to the government to create a process for the euthanasia of persons “with no free will.” The next time someone argues that there is no “slippery slope” on euthanasia, point them to the Netherlands, where, as predicted, the line between “voluntary” and “involuntary” euthanasia is fast disappearing.

MSNBC now reports that the Dutch goverment intends to set the very guidelines that the Groningen doctors had demanded:

A letter outlining the new directives will be submitted to parliament for discussion by mid-October, but the new policy will not require a vote or change of law, Dutch Health Ministry spokeswoman Annette Dijkstra told The Associated Press on Thursday. The Netherlands became the first nation to legalize euthanasia for adults under some conditions in 2001, and the latest move is likely to spark an outcry from the Vatican, right-to-life proponents and advocacy groups for the handicapped.

More: The change in Dutch policy is especially significant because it will provide the model for how the country treats other cases in which patients are unable to say whether they want to live or die, such as those involving the mentally retarded or elderly people who have become demented. The governing conservative Christian Democrat party — which fought legalization when it was in the opposition — will embrace the guidelines, known as the Groningen Protocol, drawn up last year by doctors at the Groningen University Medical Center. Under the protocol, euthanasia would be permissible when a child is terminally ill with no prospect of recovery and suffering great pain, when two sets of doctors agree the situation is hopeless and when parents give their consent.

The Culture of Death takes a great leap forward with this move — the first time a government will have adopted an official policy for the killing of infants.

I have written extensively about this controversy as it has unfolded:

Now they Want to Kill Children — Euthanasia in Europe, September 30, 2004.

Civilization at the Brink — New Assaults on Human Dignity, December 7, 2004.

Euthanasia for Newborns — Killing in the Netherlands, March 14, 2005.

Killing Newborns in the Netherlands, April 27, 2005.

Euthanizing Babies — Moral Progress or Regress?, July 10, 2005.