Skip to comments.Declaring War on Newborns (The disgrace of medical ethics.)
Posted on 03/15/2012 5:01:19 AM PDT by Kaslin
On the list of the worlds most unnecessary occupationsaromatherapist, golf pro, journalism professor, vice president of the United Statesthat of medical ethicist ranks very high. They are happily employed by pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other outposts of the vast medical-industrial combine, where their job is to advise the boss to go ahead and do what he was going to do anyway (Put it on the market! Pull the plug on the geezer!). They also attend conferences where they take turns sitting on panels talking with one another and then sitting in the audience watching panels of other medical ethicists talking with one another. Their professional specialty is the thought experiment, which is the best kind of experiment because you dont have to buy test tubes or leave the office. And sometimes they get jobs at universities, teaching other people to become ethicists. It is a cozy, happy world they live in.
But it was painfully roiled last month, when a pair of medical ethicists took to their professions bible, the Journal of Medical Ethics, and published an essay with a misleadingly inconclusive title: After-birth Abortion: Why should the baby live? It was a misleading title because the authors believe the answer to the question is: Beats me.
Right at the top, the ethicists summarized the point of their article. What we call after-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
The argument made by the authorsAlberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both of them affliliated with prestigious universities in Australia and ethicists of pristine reputationruns as follows. Lets suppose a woman gets pregnant. She decides to go ahead and have the baby on the assumption that her personal circumstances, and her views on such things as baby-raising, will remain the same through the day she gives birth and beyond.
Then she gives birth. Perhaps the baby is disabled or suffers a disease. Perhaps her boyfriend or (if shes old-fashioned) her husband abandons her, leaving her in financial peril. Or perhaps shes decided that shes just not the mothering kind, for, as the authors write, having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children, regardless of the condition of the fetus.
The authors point out that each of these conditionsthe baby is sick or suffering, the baby will be a financial hardship, the baby will be personally troublesomeis now largely accepted as a good reason for a mother to abort her baby before hes born. So why not after?
When circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible. (Their italics.) Western societies approve abortion because they have reached a consensus that a fetus is not a person; they should acknowledge that by the same definition a newborn isnt a person either. Neither fetus nor baby has developed a sufficient sense of his own life to know what it would be like to be deprived of it. The kid will never know the difference, in other words. A newborn baby is just a fetus whos hung around a bit too long.
As the authors acknowledge, this makes an after-birth abortion a tricky business. You have to get to the infant before he develops those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual. Its a race against time.
The article doesnt go on for more than 1,500 words, but for non-ethicists it has a high surprise-per-word ratio. The information that newborn babies arent people is just the beginning. A reader learns that many non-human animals are persons and therefore enjoy a right to life. (Such ruminative ruminants, unlike babies, are self-aware enough to know that getting killed will entail a loss of value.) The authors dont tell us which species these non-human persons belong to, but its safe to say that you dont want to take a medical ethicist to dinner at Outback.
But what about adoption, you ask. The authors ask that question too, noting that some peopleyou and me, for examplemight think that adoption could buy enough time for the unwanted newborn to technically become a person and possibly increase the happiness of the people involved. But this is not a viable option, if youll forgive the expression. A mother who kills her newborn baby, the authors report, is forced to accept the irreversibility of the loss. By contrast, a mother who gives her baby up for adoption might suffer psychological distress. And for a very simple reason: These mothers often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible. Its simpler for all concerned just to make sure the loss cant be reversed. Itll spare Mom a lot of heartbreak.
Now, its at this point in the Journal of Medical Ethics that many readers will begin to suspect, as I did, that their legs are being not very subtly pulled. The inversion that the argument entails is Swiftiana twenty-first-century Modest Proposal without the cannibalism (for now). Jonathan Swifts original Modest Proposal called for killing Irish children to prevent them from being a burden to their parents. It was death by compassion, the killing of innocents based on a surfeit of fellow-feeling. The authors agree that compassion itself demands the death of newborns. Unlike Swift, though, they arent kidding.
They get you coming and going, these guys. They assumeand they wont get much argument from their peers in the professionthat mentally impaired infants are eligible for elimination because they will never develop the properties necessary to be fully human. Then they discuss Treacher-Collins syndrome, which causes facial deformities and respiratory ailments but no mental impairment. Kids with TCS are fully aware of their condition, of being different from other people and of all the problems their pathology entails, and are therefore, to spare them a life of such unpleasant awareness, eligible for elimination toobecause they are not mentally impaired. The threshold to this right to life just gets higher and higher, the more you think about it.
And of course it is their business to think about it. Its what medical ethicists get paid to do: cogitate, cogitate, cogitate. As After-birth Abortion spread around the world and gained wide publicitythat damned Internet non-ethicists greeted it with derision or shock or worse. The authors and the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics were themselves shocked at the response. As their inboxes flooded with hate mail, the authors composed an apology of sorts that non-ethicists will find more revealing even than the original paper.
We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened, they wrote. The article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments. It was a thought experiment. After all, among medical ethicists this debateabout when its proper to kill babieshas been going on for 40 years.
So thats what theyve been talking about in all those panel discussions! The authors thought they were merely taking the next step in a train of logic that was set in motion, and has been widely accepted, since their profession was invented in the 1960s. And of course they were. The outrage directed at their article came from laymenpeople unsophisticated in contemporary ethics. Medical ethicists in general expressed few objections, only a minor annoyance that the authors had let the cat out of the bag. A few days after it was posted the article was removed from the publicly accessible area of the Journals website, sending it back to that happy, cozy world.
Youd have to be very, very well trained in ethics to see the authors argument as a morally acceptable extension of their premises, but you cant deny the logic of it. The rest of us will see in the argument an extension of its premises into self-evident absurdity. Pro-lifers should take note. For years, in public argument, pro-choicers have mocked them for not following their belief in a fetuss humanity to its logical end. Shouldnt you execute doctors who perform abortions? Why dont you have funerals for miscarriages?
As one pro-choice wag, writing about the Republicans pro-life platform, put it in the Washington Post a few years ago: The official position of the Republican Party is that women who have abortions should be executed.
And now we know the pro-choice position is that children born with a facial deformity should be executed too, as long as you get to them quick enough. Unwittingly the insouciant authors of After-birth Abortion have shown where pro-choicers wind up if they follow their belief about fetuses to its logical end. Theyve performed a public service. Could it be that medical ethicists really are more useful than aromatherapists?
Seriously, if we as a society allow abortions as a matter of legality, especially late term abortions,
then there is no logical inconsistency to allowing infanticide.
It’s just that because it exposes the reality of abortion that causes the left to be squeemish about infanticide.
(The disgrace of medical EUGENICS.)
there, I fixed it
Anyone, repeat, anyone who kills a baby is not deserving of life and should have their life removed from them.
After birth abortion should be legal for medical ethicists only. /s
By these idiots logic, I will make the extension (abducto absurdum) that if one becomes a medical ethicist you have no value in life and should therefore be post-birth aborted. Gee that one actually works for me
you and I both went there.....;)
—Seriously, if we as a society allow abortions as a matter of legality, especially late term abortions,
then there is no logical inconsistency to allowing infanticide.—
Yep. I’ve said that for decades. Looks like the pro-abortion people are finally coming out of the closet and saying it themselves, though to make the exact opposite case I was making. i.e. if we can kill a late term fetus, why not a newborn?
We can have that fight.
At least its an honest fight,
unlike the pro-aborts’ assertion that the unborn isn’t a human, and killing it in the early stages is the same as killing a fish.
This is true in parts of Europe and in some parts of Europe a baby is not counted as a live birth until weeks have passed.
And strangely they would likely object to wantonly killing a fish.
I agree completely. The bar will constantly be raised higher to include more people that they can define as less than complete humans.
This is disturbing on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.
The pre-Christian Romans used to put unwanted babies outside in the cold to freeze them to death. Our morality is being set back over two thousand years to the pagan era.