11/07/2006

Regarding Euthanasia and Infants

Yesterday I made a post regarding the active euthanasia of disabled infants. Looking around the web, I came across a fair amount of misinformation on the subject. In one blog in particular a poster articulated the sentiment that doctors must know best and anyone who opposed the proposal was a hypocrite if they agreed with the use of ventilators and feeding tubes.
Before I begin, a few definitions take from here.
"Passive euthanasia" is usually defined as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patient's death.

"Active euthanasia" is taking specific steps to cause the patient's death, such as injecting the patient with poison. In practice, this is usually an overdose of pain-killers or sleeping pills.

"Voluntary euthanasia" is when the patient requests that action be taken to end his life, or that life-saving treatment be stopped, with full knowledge that this will lead to his death.

"Involuntary euthanasia" is when a patient's life is ended without the patient's knowledge and consent.

The wikipedia entry includes nonvoluntary euthanasia and defines involuntary euthanasia differently.
Nonvoluntary euthanasia occurs without the fully informed consent and fully informed request of a decisionally-competent adult patient or that of their surrogate (proxy). An example of this might be if a "patient" has decisional capacity but is not told they will be euthanized; or, if a patient is not conscious or lacks decisional-capacity and their surrogate is not told the patient will be euthanized.

Involuntary euthanasia occurs over the objection of a patient or their surrogate (proxy). An example of this might be if a patient with decisional capacity (or their surrogate) is told what will happen. The patient (or surrogate) refuses yet the patient is euthanized anyway.

Terminal sedation is not euthanasia. The patient is medically put to sleep, possibly taken off a breathing tube and receives no further treatment. Usually, this does not include removal of a feeding tube that could result in starvation. Allowing a patient to starve to death would qualify as passive euthanasia.
A correct understanding of the definitions makes all the difference in the world to this particular argument. The Royal College of Obstetricians presented an argument which consisted of the following:
1. Actively euthanising a patient.
2. The patient is a disabled infant. Since minors are not legally allowed to decide whether they may be euthanised and babies are incapable of making such a decision, a surrogate or proxy must be selected.
3. In this case, the surrogate or proxy is the parent. The parent has already decided that they do not wish their child to live. This presents a conflict of interest. The proxy has their own interest at heart and not that of the patient. In a typical case, were the patient an adult, such an individual would not be allowed to make the decision to euthanise a patient or not. Someone without said conflict of interest would have to be selected. However, no other proxy is selected.
Not presented in their case is that, in most cases, a doctor may not legally decide to euthanise a patient of their own accord. In fact, the point that parents had to fight against the doctors in order to keep their child alive is only picked up by the article. The Royal College makes no admission of their own conflict of interest whatsoever.
Damian felt guilty about invoking Godwin's law. I'd like to point out that Godwin's law does not apply in cases where the guilty party (in this case, the Royal College) is in fact adopting some portion of the principles of the Nazi Party. The Nazi's wanted to preserve the quality of their race. Their argument hinged on the fact that disabled children diminish racial purity.
As recorded in Plutarch's Lives, the Spartan's had a similar belief. Children were bred for the benefit of their society. Infants who were deformed or even too small were thrown into a ravine. They were not even accorded a burial. The belief was Nazi-like in principle. The small and the weak would be less able to benefit their society, which centered around the accomplishments of the strong warrior. The belief was so extreme that should a woman give birth to twins, the smallest twin would be discarded. Superstition held that the smaller twin would leech of the metaphysical superiority of the stronger twin, result in two weaklings. This belief was held well until the Dark Ages.
The Royal College wishes to euthanise disabled babies that will not have a "normal" life or are not wanted by their parents. The notion of normal is quite vague and the inclusion of "not wanted" ought to be disturbing to everyone.
Like it or not, these are arguments of worth. The underlying principle is that disabled people are less able to contribute to the well-being of a society. Parents need not be "burdened" with the care of a disabled child. What makes arguments such as the one presented by the Royal College most disturbing is not only their ultimate goal, murder of the imperfect, but their vagueness. Normality is not properly defined and neither is a worthwhile life. Questions to consider in light of this:
Will a Down's baby have a worthwhile life?
Is a blind baby going to have a worthwhile life?
Will a deaf baby have a worthwhile life?
Will a mute baby have a worthwhile life?
What about Helen Keller?
What about Anne Sullivan?
What about dwarfs?
What about the family on "Little People, Big World?" Their life looks pretty good to me.
How is potential being measured by the people who support infanticide? Consider carefully that people like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam and Charles Manson would probably have "passed" their measure of normality. Is the measurement of worth accurate in their cases?
God decides the worth of a human being, not man. He doesn't place worth on the externals of a person, but on their internal, spiritual state. Our worth is not determined by how we look or our physical prowess, but on our humility before God and our obedience to Him. As I commented yesterday in response to a poster, there is nothing of value to consider in an argument in favour of euthanising disabled infants. There is no convceivable argument that any doctor could possible offer that would justify the decision to murder a baby, especially in the case where their parent simply does not want them anymore. That the Royal College ever presented their case at all offers a glimpse into the morally depraved nature of our world.
People learned nothing from the second World War.

3 comments:

Joanne (True Blue) said...

What about Stephen Hawking?

Ruth said...

He wasn't born disabled. He developed ALS later in life. Still the point is the same, as you rightly point out. A disability often has no impact on the ability of an individual to contribute to society.

TheTorontoTory said...

This is only a lead-up to make it socially acceptable to euthanize due to hair colour and so forth. The liberals are trying to set the precedent that it is alright to kill because of imperfection in the eyes of someone else. This is how these platforms are launched and will only take time unless someone speaks up.

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