Monday, November 06, 2006

U.K. Docs Greasing the Slippery Slope

Damian has linked to a frightening story from the U.K. - "Allow 'active euthanasia' for disabled babies, doctors urge".

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has put forward the option of permitting mercy killings of the sickest infants to a review of medical ethics.

They call it "active euthanisia". Incredibly, they somehow rationalize that this would measure reduce late-term abortions!

"A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making," the college writes in a submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

John Harris, a member of the official Human Genetics Commission and professor of bioethics at Manchester University, welcomed the college's submission. "We can terminate for serious foetal abnormality up to term, but cannot kill a newborn," he told The Sunday Times. "What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it OK to kill the foetus at one end of the birth canal but not the other?"

That would be my argument against late-term abortions, but he's gone and flipped it around: If we're allowing an abortion up to the minute of birth, why not terminate the life a minute afterwards?

I find this whole concept appalling on so many levels.

First of all, the obvious. We are coming closer and closer to a designer society where a collection of elitist human beings get to decide what characteristics warrant the gift of life. And what will happen at the other end of the scale? Will we one day decide that anyone with Alzheimers, for example, is too big of a drain on our ailing health care system?

On a purely personal level, there is someone very close to our family who has a disability that some people might consider worthy of termination, but this young woman is a pure joy in our lives and someone whom we are very blessed to know. I'm sure her family cannot imagine life without her.

Once we decide to play God, where does it end?

More at RootleWeb: "Mercy" Killing Babies, with a link from This is London.
Relapsed Catholic: "Kill! Everyone! Now!" Mmmm... Do we have another blogburst starting, Kathy? Do we all have our 'talking points'?
Big Blue Wave: "Allow 'active euthanasia' for disabled babies, doctors urge".
Dr. Roy: "Active Euthanasia for severly disabled newborns".

If you have posted on this topic, please let me know. Thanks.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Ruth has just produced another awesome post on this topic!! Please check it out (Regarding Euthanasia and Infants). Great post, Ruth!!! (Especially considering the fact that she is rebutting a counter-post ridiculing mine!) .
-Note to Soccermom: Don't go there. Trust me.

How are we going to prevent this from happening in Canada???


Jason Bo Green said...

Well, I don't fully grasp this issue, perhaps.

I'm against late-term abortion, but I'd certainly think long and hard about aborting a 6 month old fetus with Down's Syndrome, if you want the honest truth.

An 8 month old fetus with Down's Syndrome I'd probably want to give up for adoption.

Doesn't mean I have anything against people with Down's, I just don't have what it takes to provide and care for such a person, I'm afraid.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jason, that's a very honest answer. I wish more people thought like you, and realized their limits for such challenges, and would give someone else the opportunity to adopt.

PGP said...

It's one of the thorniest issues we face.

If you subscribe to moral equivalence then you can probably justify euthanasia.
If you draw a line where one side is right and the other immoral you probably cannot justify it.

The only way to know is to face the circumstance yourself.

In our technological world we have the ability and resources to work around natural selection and the consequences of failed genetic combinations. We can mitigate the results of destructive environment events. We can even make things easier for those who simply make bad decisions.

The question always comes down to where the line is drawn.

Funny thing is that prior to the development of these life sustaining technologies or the availability of the resources needed to interfere, there was far less need to make such decisions and little outcry if they were made.
Harsher times? Or just times where things were more clear?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

The use of the word "disabled" worries me here. I don't think I would agree with some sort of life-ending procedure for a new-born with Down's. That being said, I think I can certainly imagine a scenario in which the extreme severity of an infant's medical problems would make a procedure to end the infant's life peacefully not only the compassionate, but I would say the ethical, thing to do. (again, "disability" suggests a connection with "disabilities" that one can live with, though with great difficulty, which makes me nervous about that term, but there are medical difficulties more severe than what I would term a "disability" where I can see an end to suffering trumping the prolongation of life at all costs, from a ethical point of view).

These cases would be extremely rare, and most severe, but I won't say for certain that there are no scenarios in which I would agree that the end of an infant's life would be morally preferable to it's continuation.

I think in rare cases, there comes a point when managing the end of a person's life (regardless of age) is ethically preferable to prolonging life no matter what the consequences for the patient. Those are rare, and the extremes, but they do occur. I think that saying that a doctor can never do anything that brings their patient's life to a peaceful end in extreme circumstances ignores the complexity of these issues, in much the same way as claiming that a woman's right to an abortion cannot be infringed in any way whatsoever.

An extremely complicated issue, and one which I suspect requires a complicated answer. To my mind, there's little black and white here.

Brian said...

A very disabled child can mean a disabled family.

Tell that to people with a disabled person in the family.

The idea that family's are somehow incomplete or wrong, or broken because they have a disabled person in them is appaling.

Family's are becoming disabled because of attitudes like that.

Nothing rips a family apart like a drug addict in it's midst, should we euthenize drug addicts now? At least they had some say in the matter.

Jay said...

Hey Joanne,
Just an update. Remember your post on the SWC/SOW where someone stated that the funding would have no effect on womens shelters?

Well, thats untrue. My mother works at one in Alberta (where the employment rate drops daily and the number of abused women increase), and they have lost/are losing $200,000 in funding.

Not sure how it had that effect though. Just thought I would let you know, was speaking with my mom last night.

Not sure if you were against the loss of funding for womens shelters or if you could give a damn about abused women.

Jay said...

On your current topic. I am a biologist and have done many fetal dissections (not human) and can honestly say that there is nothing to the fetus prior to 3 months. I have seen detailed pictures of human development in the fetus mainly for comparisons across the animal. Strange enough all fetus' (bird, reptile, mammal, fish, amphibians) look pretty much the same.

I would have no problem aborting a fetus during this time period.

I don't agree with abortions after that time period (3 months) except for in extreme situations. I think I mentioned to you Joanne about the nightmare my mother had with a baby carried full term where the gender could not even be identified and the trauma it caused everyone. Situations where you know the fetus is not viable.

There is really not much of an excuse for an unwanted pregnancy in this day and age except if your church forbids contraception.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

My mother works at one in Alberta (where the employment rate drops daily and the number of abused women increase), and they have lost/are losing $200,000 in funding.

Why is the employment rate dropping in Alberta of all places?

Anyway, if they have lost that kind of money and it's not being replaced elsewhere, that is a concern. I had been under the impression that the money cut from these programs was just going to have the effect of steamlining and getting rid of waste.

So how specifically is it affecting the shelter? Do they have to turn women away now? Or cut programs?

BTW, is the staff unionized? Just curious. Thanks, Jay.

Red Tory said...

LATE TERM ABORTIONS... Coming to tha theatre near you! SOON! Warning... Warning... Danger Will Robinson!!!!!

You know, this stuff just gets so tiresome after a while.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

You know, this stuff just gets so tiresome after a while.

Gee, sorry that the thought of legalizing murder is boring, Red. Oh, right. As long as it doesn't affect you.

Jason Bo Green said...

Well, I guess I personally think late-term abortions are probably more of an issue to most people than, say, the current one on gay marriage, for example. I think it's a worthwhile debate to have openly. There are many interesting things about it, on either side, that I don't know and would learn, I'm sure.

Jason Bo Green said...

give someone else the opportunity to adopt

Hi Joanne.

I completely agree - adoption is an excellent, excellent option, and you may recall that I'm in favour of the feds maintaing legal abortion, but shelling out 10 or 20k for an unwanted baby carried to full-term. It won't completely please the anti-abortion crowd and will sound like pressure to the pro-abortion people, but I think it's a potential, workable compromise (in other words, will never happen....).

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I personally think late-term abortions are probably more of an issue to most people than, say, the current one on gay marriage, for example.

You know what, Jason? I agree with you. In fact I find myself agreeing with you more and more each day. Very interesting.

The only thing about this story though, is that these U.K. doctors are talking about active killing of selected infants after birth, rather than abortion. Not just letting nature take it's course and withholding treatment, but actually killing them!

It scares the heck out of me.

Soccermom said...

As a mother of a Down Syndrome child, I really find this issue disturbing. It is heart-wrenching.

Who are we to decide who is worthy of life and who is not? We are not God.

Jason Bo Green, I see where you're coming from, but I think you underestimate the capacity yourself and others have to love and nurture. We become the person we are meant to be when we face challenges head on and learn from them, not run from them.

I know I have become a better person because of my son. And I know the world is a better place because of his smiles, his laughter, and the joy he shows me every day.

I don't feel like arguing. This issue hurts too much.

Dark Blue Tory said...

Jesus Christ. I can hear the simultaneous chant of "Sieg Heil."

This is appalling.

Roy Eappen said...

It is already happening in the Netherlands. It is the murder of the weak and defenseless. Where does this end?

Red Tory said...


Sorry, I was just trying to get into the spirit of the post.

Do keep up the good work in providing examples where abortion is nasty. Eventually, it can be eliminated altogether.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Red, your sarcasm in this situation is just not funny. The very fact that you continue to reference abortions proves the point of this whole post.

It isn't so much of a leap in your mind, obviously to eliminate the newly-born if we are already doing so to the almost-born.

I know that you don't agree with late-term abortions, but this is exactly where your kind complacency is taking us - the next step. Are you going to sluff that off with a sardonic remark as well? And what will you do when someone decides your life has no value, Red? Oh, yeah. That's right. You don't care. Well some people do.

Dr. Roy, thanks for reminding us that this is already happening in the Netherlands, and if you read the article from the Independent:

"Dr Pieter Sauer, co-author of the Groningen Protocol, the guidelines governing infant euthanasia in the Netherlands, said British medics already carry out mercy killings and should be allowed to do so in the open. "English neonatologists gave me the indication that this is happening."

So Dr. Sauer says that "mercy killings" should be allowed the open."


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Soccer Mom, I chose to address you separately here, because your situation is so special.

This is the other kind of fallout from a society that decides who is of value, and who isn't.

So someone from high arbitrarily decides that infants with Down's syndrome for example should be murdered. Even if the parents are in agreement with the decision, what messagae does that send to the other parents of Down's Syndrome children?

We are basically then saying your child is not worthy of life, but you chose to burden the system with the costs.

Not only do we diminish the value of the child with the handicap, but we also put a burden of guilt on the parent.

Soccermom, I don't blame you for not wanting to get into this argument. Just know that I support you and I appreciate what you have done for your child and what your child has done for you.

You both have more value in my eyes than many other sad excuses for human beings that supposedly are "normal", but have ice where there should be a soul.

Jason Bo Green said...

Whoa - what did I miss in this???

AFTER birth??? I thought this was about late-term. I completely misunderstood.

I believe there are probably sme legitimate instances where a newborn could be experiencing some traumatic sort of agony that we can't rectify - that's one thing.

I clearly did not understand this whole issue. Once a baby is born - even reaches 8 months in the womb - it should just be adopted.

Joanne, I find I can find a lot of common ground with almost everyone. ;)

I don't think this is hysteria about "baby killers", abortion is a valid area of greys that people struggle to understand and to find their footing on. It's good to talk about things and express yourself and to learn from others expressing themselves, too.

Jason Bo Green said...

Okay, I re-read the post.

Really, I just read "sickest infants" and "disabled babies" as meaning "in the womb", it never occurred to me that they were born already.

These babies should be put into orphanages if the parents are unable or unwilling to care for them.

There's no reason to euthanize disabled infants. If no one wants to adopt them, the state can care for them - I don't mind paying the taxes for legitimate reason.s

Joanne (True Blue) said...

If no one wants to adopt them, the state can care for them - I don't mind paying the taxes for legitimate reason.s.

Thank God! A voice of reason.

Soccermom said...

Thanks, Joanne. I had trouble sleeping last night because this issue is so upsetting to me. I appreciate all you have to say, especially your laugh paragraph in your post to me!

For anyone who is interested, google "Welcome to Holland", a poem by Emily Perl Kingsley. It gives some perspective on raising a child with challenges.

I really hate agreeing with Hillary Clinton, but her famous "It takes a village to raise a child" is so true when you raise a special child. There is more help available now more than ever. I have a vast network of "helpers". My faith has also helped me tremendously along the way (I know that's going to invite ridicule and eye-rolling from some people, but it's true).

My son doesn't just impact my life. My other kids have benefitted and learned so much from having him around. I have had complete strangers come up to me to tell me I have a beautiful child. My life is not easy, no, but I believe God puts certain people in your path and times when you need them. (And who the heck ever guaranteed that life would be easy?)The kids in his school learn about empathy and that he's really not much different than they are. His teachers and aides rave about what a sweet kid he is! He's the happiest person I've ever known!

The main point I want to stress here is that NO ONE IS PERFECT. We all have differences.

Where is our tolerant society? Really, some people are more tolerant of terrorists and what they stand for than they are of handicapped people. Sick.

And that's all I'm going to say on this subject.

Clinton P. Desveaux said...

Interesting indeed

Soccermom said...

Sorry, Joanne, that should read "last paragraph". Not laugh paragraph. See, I didn't get enough sleep!!!!!


Joanne (True Blue) said...

I had trouble sleeping last night because this issue is so upsetting to me.

Soccermom, the last thing in the world I would want to do with this blog is upset someone such as yourself. I do so much appreciate your candor, and how you say that handicapped children can enrich the lives of those around us.

I know a young woman with cerebral palsy, and I can honestly tell you that I have never met such an upbeat teenager, who has such a very mature view of life. She is a gift to all those around her, and is talented in the literary field beyond belief.

I think people who have a habit of tuning out the sorts of things that are happening now in the Netherlands and in the U.K. should start thinking about the implications now, because otherwise, we are doomed to follow in their footsteps by a force-fed leftist agenda.

P.S. Just reading your next comment now. No worries about the mistake. lol! You should see what I'm like with no sleep. Take a nap when you can get the opportunity!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Jdave, I just deleted your tasteless comment. Any chance, BTW, that you might happen to work at either the Bank of Canada or Carleton?

Ruth said...

A lot of people appear to be unaware of the the actual issue being promoted by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology.
The issue is active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is not the same as passive euthanasia, where a patient is left without treatment and allowed to die (as in the Schiavo case). Removing a ventilator or feeding tube qualifies as passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is the practice of speeding the death process in a patient. Lethal injections are the most frequent method used.
The arguments presented by the Royal College are not only based upon life-altering disabilities and "worth of life," but whether or not the infant is wanted by their parents. As far as I am concerned, this is not an argument that should be entertained by anyone. Not wanting your child is not a reason to end their life.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Lethal injections are the most frequent method used.

Yeah, kinda like what they do to U.S. prisoners on death row.

Ruth, this comment from the article you linked to on your post says it all for me:

Having worked as a health professional with the elderly and incapacitated and also being a mother of a handicapped child I can tell you that the "small contribution" these individuals make to society is that they require us to stretch and learn to give and love regardless of what we get in return. This contribution is priceless because it is that ability to learn to give unconditionally to another that keeps us human and caring. If we start to legislate the worth of one individual over another, I feel we will do away with true human caring and replace it with fear and selfishness.
- Linda, Saipan, USA

Kunoichi said...

Before our move, we had the pleasure of knowing the foster daughter of a friend of mine. It was a pleasure to see how the other children (ranging from toddlers to teens) interacted with her. They showered her with hugs and kisses. They sang to her and played music for her. They went out of their way to try and include her in what they were doing.

This child is severely disabled thanks to her biological mother's drug and alchohol abuse (as are her 5 (6 now?) siblings, all wards of the state). She will never be able to talk. She is fed through a tube in her stomach. She was thought to be deaf until, at the insistance of her foster mother, she was given a particular treatment. She can barely lift her head. With great effort, she can open both eyes at once, but not always. Her retina are loose, so sometimes she can see, sometimes she can't. Sitting up for too long causes seizures, as does too warm temperatures, in spite of anti-seizure medication. Her eyes do not produce tears, so a special ointment must be used. The list goes on.

Dispite all that, she is one of the happiest children I've ever seen, and has the most expressive face. Unable to speak with words, she compensates with her face. There is no way of knowing what, if any, mental damage she may have, so everyone just treats her as if she understands everything, and from her responses it's clear she does understand at least some of what's going on around her. She has a smile as bright as the sun. When she frowns, you can feel your heart breaking in empathy. Being around her is pure joy.

A number of years ago, when she was about 4 or 5, if I remember correctly (she's now 8), her foster mother had to take her to the hospital yet again. The doctors at the hospital suggested not treating her at all; that she was a waste of resources and costing the system too much money. They continued to give her a hard time, pressuring her to agree to withold treatment, until she moved and was able to go to a different hospital, where her "forever baby" is treated with dignity and respect.

If doctors like the ones she had to deal with before, or the ones suggesting killing severely disabled newborns, had their way, this child would've been "put out of her misery", and our lives would never have been touched by the joy of this child. Since our move, we miss her greatly.

Life would be sorry indeed if we could not see the value and dignity of even the most severely disabled among us.