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    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Suffer Not the Children: Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology is asking permission to kill disabled babies:

    “A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,” it says. “If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”

    It isn't entirely clear why infanticide would be a better choice than late term abortion. But one advocate makes it clear that infant euthanasia is part and parcel of the logic of abortion:

    The college’s submission was also welcomed by John Harris, a member of the government’s Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University. “We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he said.

    Full proposal here.

    posted by Sydney on 11/05/2006 10:54:00 PM 5 comments


    I think that the logic here is that parents would be more likely to continue a pregnancy when the prognosis is not entirely clear, if they knew they would never have to take care of a handicapped child. If the child does have turn out to have the defect, it could be killed.

    Cardiac defects, like hypoplastic left heart, might fall into this category. But, I wonder how many 3D ultrasounds the UK has to properly diagnose things like this? I would guess they have none. Maybe they ought to just spend a little more on technology.

    Also the last quote is perfectly illustrative of why late-term abortions are illegal in the US. His logic is quite correct, based on British law. In addition to the Groningen Protocol, Europe might also have have the RCOG Protocol. And, the obvious next step after that would be physician-assisted suicide in the UK.

    These articles are going straight into my "slippery slope" file.

    By Anonymous Danie, at 1:40 PM  

    Yes, John Harris asked the right question, and danie is right about the slippery slope. The thing is, right-to-lifers used to criticize abortion because it was seen as something done for the mother's convenience. That argument is correctly seen as insulting to women, and there is no way the US is going to ban all abortions, nor should it. Late term abortion brings up a different issue: where is the "right" to take someone's life because you judge that life not to be worth living, and to whom doe that "right" belong?

    By Blogger cokaygne, at 3:33 AM  

    This case is actually like the top of a hill- it slides in a lot of directions. For instance, the RCOG statement utilizes a term called "Quality adjusted year of life." or QALY. Decades ago, I published a couple of articles on this very issue. We decided that it was simply an invalid concept given our society's concepts of human dignity and value. I don't think the American medical ethics community seriously discusses this construct any more. The pro-life movement and disability advocacy groups probably did have an effect on the thinking there. I remember being somewhat shocked to find that a year of my life was worth a tiny bit less because I wore glasses! This is the kind of conundrum one gets into when one starts deciding what life is worth. Where do you stop? Thus, the slope.

    The UK does not have an ADA law, and I am guessing that the pro-life movement there is minimal. The doctors are also employees of the NHS and are perhaps responsible for how the money is spent. They don't worry nearly as much about malpractice litigation as we do. I wonder if all of these factors together caused them to drag out the concept of a QALY.

    By Anonymous danie, at 12:00 PM  

    Slippery slope indeed, it's reading articles like this that make me remember why the Hippocratic Oath exists for a reason. Humans can rationalize too many things.

    By Anonymous Dara, at 12:47 PM  

    Why would anyone ask "permission" to do such a thing? Maybe because they know it's wrong and are seeking the cover of some authority's approval?

    Wouldn't it be simpler just to have a lottery and shoot every tenth person in the UK? British physicians and politicians excepted of course.

    John Fembup

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:46 PM  

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