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Respect for human dignity ‘demands’ infanticide for disabled newborns: bioethicist

Alex Schadenberg Alex Schadenberg Follow Alex

Udo Schuklenk, who was the chair of the one-sided Royal Society of Canada: End of Life Decision Making panel, is now proselytizing his philosophy (or Peter Singer's philosophy) promoting euthanasia for newborns and infanticide. Schuklenk uses quality-of-life arguments to support his eugenic philosophy to encourage the killing of newborns with disabilities.

In an article published in The Journal of Thoracie and Cardiovascular Surgery, titled: Physicians can justifiably euthanize certain severely impaired neonates, Schuklenk argues that some lives are not worth living and that parents should have the right to decide to end the lives of newborns with disabilities. Schuklenk states:

A quality-of-life ethic requires us to focus on a neonate's current and future quality of life as relevant decision-making criteria. We would ask questions such as: Does this baby have capacity for development to an extent that will allow him or her to have a life and not merely be alive? If we reach the conclusion that it would not, we would have reason to conclude that his life is not worth living.

Schuklenk argues that based on a Quality-of-Life Ethic euthanasia of newborns or infanticide is a moral option and in some cases it should be demanded. Schuklenk states:

A quality-of-life proponent could just as well argue that respect for human dignity demands that the infant's life be terminated on compassionate grounds.

Schuklenk argues that there is no moral difference between killing an infant and letting the infant die a natural death, except that killing an infant is quick and causes less suffering for the parents. Schuklenk argues:

Once we have concluded that death is what is in the best interest of the infant, it is unreasonable not to bring about this death as painlessly and as much controlled in terms of timing by the parents as is feasible.

If his prolonged dying is harmful to them (the parents) a further quality-of-life based argument in favor of terminating the infant's life is established.

There is a difference between killing and letting die. If treatment is withdrawn and care is provided, if the child dies, the death will be from the medical condition, which is a natural death. Sometimes the child does not have a lethal condition, and if care is provided, the child will continue to live. 

If the child is given a lethal injection, the child is intentionally killed, whether the child had a lethal condition or not.

Schuklenk considers newborns to have the same status as the child in the womb. Similar to Peter Singer, Schuklenk argues that parents should be able to freely decide to end the life of their newborn, otherwise known as infanticide. Schukelenk states:

In morally important ways his developmental state is closer to that of a fetus than to that of a person like you or me. The parents should be able to freely decide on what would amount to postnatal abortion.

Paradoxically, in his November 18, 2014 Globe and Mail article concerning the court decision giving parents of a native girl the right to withdraw their daughter from medical treatment, Schuklenk stated: 

There is no parental right to harm your children. Since when has the life of a child become so cheap that we leave it to misguided parents who wish to do as they see fit, evidence be damned?

Schuklenk then defends his position by referring to the euthanasia of newborns in the Netherlands, a practice that was first approved by the Dutch courts in the 1990's and was later approved by the Dutch Medical Association with the acceptance of the Groningen protocol. Schuklenk states:

Prenatal testing renders the need for infanticide exceedingly rare. ...Of about 200,000 children born in The Netherlands on an annual basis only very few newborns saw their lives ended by this means.

Schuklenk claims that only 4 infants were euthanized between 1995 and 2005 and none were euthanized between 2005 - 10. The Groningen Protocol states that it is based on 22 infants who were born with Spina Bifida who died by euthanasia. Schuklenk continues:

Withdrawing treatment almost always entails the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration. These cases still number below 300, decreasing from 299 in 1995 to 177 in 2010.

Even though his statistics are questionable, Schuklenk argues that the small number of newborn euthanasia deaths indicates that a slippery slope does not exist. The statistics do indicate that the Netherlands are dehydrating to death a high percentage of newborns with disabilities instead of lethally injecting them.

Ideas have consequences. 

Philosophers, like Schuklenk, Singer and Downie are being given a significant amount of ink on paper where they can promote their eugenic ideology to end the lives of people with disabilities under the guise of ending suffering.

The concept that the lives of some people are not worth living leads to the death of newborns with disabilities and infanticide. This concept also leads to the continued devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities and people with chronic and other vulnerable conditions.

Reprinted with permission from Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

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