“1. The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.
“2. It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her
from developing the potentiality to become a person in the
morally relevant sense.”
The British Journal of Medical Ethics continues to publish thought exercises that go against common sense and traditional medical ethics, “emphasising” (British spelling) the utilitarian world-view of today’s “medical ethics,” without the slightest acknowledgment that there might be harm in the act of arguing that not all human beings are “morally relevant persons.”
This month, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, redefine “abortion,” “euthanasia,” and “infanticide” in “After-Birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?”
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.
The arguments don’t work other than as an example of the logical results of the utilitarian world view that has come to dominate medical ethics and to illustrate what Leon Kass called “The Wisdom of Repugnance,” or the “yuck factor.”
One of the editors, Julian Salvulescu, who believes that values and conscience lead to “a Pandora’s box of idiosyncratic, bigoted, discriminatory medicine,” defends the piece on the grounds that that the ideas are not new. Indeed, the authors discuss the history of killing babies before and after birth because of medical diagnoses such as Down’s syndrome and after birth due to suffering of the child or the lack of worth placed on the child by his or her mother. The Netherland’s “Groningen Protocol” for active euthanasia of children is mentioned as precedent for government support for their position.
We should let these “expressions” be a warning to us all in these days of increasing government involvement in healthcare. As the authors argue,
“Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
Freedom of expression and the discussion of even such unpopular ideas do have a place in our world. However, I wonder at an “ethics” journal whose editors claim that their
“Journal does not specifically support substantive moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks, over others. It supports sound rational argument. Moreover, it supports freedom of ethical expression.”
Obviously, they do support “sound rational argument” and “freedom of ethical expression” over “moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks.”
At what point would the editors determine that “ethicists” should be censured, corrected or even retrained? Would the Journal publish a “sound rational argument” that advocates the end of “freedom of ethical expression?”