Sunday, November 05, 2006

Doctors' Society Asks to Consider Infantizide

Quite remarkable the news item in today's SUNDAY TIMES. The paper discovered a position statement (*pdf file!) the Royal Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology submitted in response to a consultation the Nuffield Council on Bioethics started some time ago. Nothing unusual about this, you might say. Well, the unusual, in fact, the unusually brave, thing about the society's statement is that it asks us to consider whether or not under certain circumstances active euthanasia of very severely disabled newborns is something that we should permit physicians to do. Here's the crucial part from the statement: "We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns." The ethical rationale, as proposed time and again by moral philosophers such as Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and others is that it can be in the best interest of such newborns to get actively killed (in a painless manner that is not causing any distress to these newborns), instead of being kept alive to live a short life of a very low quality.
Quite interesting that this statement was overshadowed by a truly less important event, namely the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, the former ruling dictator of Iraq. To my mind the importance of a mainstream medical association suggesting that we ought to have a discussion about the question of whether active euthanasia for some severely disabled newborns might not the way to go, cannot be overestimated.
Let's hope this discussion will ever take place and changes will be implemented. It seems difficult to accept a status quo in which quality of life is subordinate to mere existence (at whatever cost in terms of life quality. Not all lives are worth living. It seems the Royal Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has come to realise this.

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