Whenever you see the title "ethicist" today you are likely to find someone attacking real ethics, at least the ethics that lean on the tradition of moral understanding that has developed over thousands of years and the Judeo-Christian worldview. Unfortunately, big money is invested in creating "ethicist" positions at various institutions that desire to justify cold-hearted utilitarian interests, some of them financial. Have someone who calls himself an "ethicist" bless infanticide or assisted suicide or cloning and that is supposed to make it just fine.
Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's blog, Second Hand Smoke, covers this territory regularly and I commend it to readers of Discovery Blog. If we could raise the money, Discovery would expand Wesley's reach and have a number of people working in this under-cultivated field. In fact, we are working on that problem and could use your assistance and leads.
Meanwhile, read this latest article length blog by Wesley J. Smith:
Promoting Infanticide in the HASTINGS CENTER REPORT
The Hastings Center Report is the world's most prestigious bioethics journal. Articles published in its pages are generally in the mainstream thinking of bioethics discourse and at the heart of the process of debate within bioethics that often leads to changes in public policy--such as the discussions in the 1980s about dehydrating the cognitively impaired led to routine withholding of sustenance today.
In the last several years, Report articles have promoted a "duty to die" and a right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill. In the most recent edition, it promotes Dutch style infanticide. From the article "Ending the Life of a Newborn," (Hastings Center Report 38, 1 pp. 42-51 ) by an American bioethicist named Hilde Lindemann and a Dutch bioethicist named Marian Verkerk (no link available). The authors approve of the so-called "Groningen Protocol," under which doctors murder dying and disabled babies in the Netherlands without legal consequence. (I call it murder because that is how it is still defined in Dutch law.) The Protocol permits babies to be lethally injected if:
1: they have no chance of survival (which is sometimes misdiagnosed); 2, if they "may survive after a period of intensive treatment but expectation for their future are very grim;" or, 3 they have an extremely poor prognosis "who do not depend on technology for physiologic stability and whose suffering is severe, sustained, and cannot be alleviated."
The authors defend the Protocol from most criticisms, even to the point that they believe killing the non terminally ill is more important that terminating babies about to die:
Critics charge that the protocol does not successfully identify which babies will die. But it is precisely those babies who could continue to live, but whose lives would be wretched in the extreme, who stand in most need of the interventions for which the protocol offers guidance.
They proceed to discuss at great length the issues involved in doctors and parents determining whether a disabled baby's future life will be worth living. Here is a sampling of their murder-promoting advocacy:
Where the Dutch go further than other countries is in their shared belief that even newborns have a fundamental interest in not prolonging a life that is or will become an intolerable burden to them. This understanding is buttressed by a consensus--within the National Association of Pediatricians, for example, but also in the wider community on some criteria regarding quality of life, including the amount of suffering that is to be accepted, the capacities for communication(nonverbally as well as verbally),the capacities to live a self-supporting life, and the dependency on care institutions. It is one of the harsh realities of twenty-first-century medicine that quality-of-life judgments must be made. What we must not do is pretend that we do not already make them, and that there is somehow something morally different about doing it for a newborn baby.
One might object that even if we do make quality-of-life judgments for others, there is surely a moral difference between killing and letting die. In fact, sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't. As James Rachels has famously argued, whether you drown your six-year-old nephew in the bathtub so that you can collect his inheritance or merely refuse to intervene as he slips and hits his head and falls face down into the bathwater, either way you are a murderer. [Me: And both are evil, just like infanticide.] We agree with Rachels that actively ending a life can sometimes be more humane than waiting for the person to die, and that in the desperate cases where death does not come of its own accord to end unendurable suffering, the morally right thing to do is to summon it.
The article assumes that guidelines will protect against abuse, but infanticide is by definition abuse. Moreover, the euthanasia guidelines for adults and teenagers have not held, so why should anyone expect that those being established in the Netherlands for legalized infanticide will? Even the authors understand that mistakes will happen and, typical of the mindset, assume that if murder of the helpless is committed in front of an open window it is somehow more acceptable:
Determining in an instant case whether the protocol is applicable will always require judgment, and because the stakes are inordinately high no matter what is decided, the judgment must be made with fear and trembling. That said, however, we believe that transparency in the deliberations concerning the ending of an infant's life--which is just as important as it is in the deliberations concerning euthanasia in adults--is adequately promoted by the protocol's requirements.
Concerning the larger question of whether the practice for which the protocol was developed can be morally justified, we think it can in the Netherlands, at any rate. When a tragically impaired infant is born into a society that is hospitable to its children, offers universal access to decent health care, and promotes an ethos among its citizens whereby they look after each other as a matter of course, we believe that the doctor's ending the baby's life could be the best, most caring response.
It wasn't many years ago that almost everyone accepted that infanticide is intrinsically and inherently wrong. No more. With personhood theory and the "quality of life ethic increasingly permeating the highest levels of the medical and bioethical intelligentsia, we are moving toward a medical system in which babies are put down like dogs and killing is redefined as compassion.
But bigotry is bigotry even if you spell it c.o.m.p.a.s.s.i.o.n. And to think, after World War II German doctors were hanged for doing precisely what is being promoted in "prestigious" the Hastings Center Report.