Growing Support for Newborn Euthanasia

LifeSiteNews reports about a new article in the bioethics journal The Hastings Center Report:

In 2005 the world was horrified when it was revealed that in the Netherlands doctors were not only openly admitting that they had killed disabled newborn infants, but that the medical institution was actively promoting child euthanasia through the so-called Groningen Protocol. The protocol – the full name of which is The Groningen Protocol for Euthanasia in Newborns – lays out a set of guidelines that must be followed in making and executing the decision to kill a newborn infant.

The revelation that newborn euthanasia was both common and acceptable in the Netherlands was greeted with harsh criticisms from around the world, with one Italian Minister going to far as to accuse the Netherlands of Nazism. Others expressed their disgust that many of the children who were being euthanized by Dutch doctors were children with Spina Bifida, a condition with which many people have lived well into adulthood and had fulfilling lives.

A lengthy report that appears in the most recent issue of The Hastings Center Report – called by conservative bioethicist Wesley Smith the “world’s most prestigious” journal of bioethics – however, strongly defends The Groningen Protocol as humane and perfectly ethical. It especially defends the ethical nature of the protocol’s provisions for killing newborns with conditions that would allow them to live for many years.

The article, entitled “Ending the Life of a Newborn”, penned by a pair of bioethicists – Hilde Lindemann and Marian Verkerk – ostensibly sets out to clarify eight separate “misunderstandings” about The Groningen Protocol. In the process, the pair defies initial expectations by boldly and unapologetically pointing out that the protocol is in truth much more extreme than most of its critics believe it to be; the authors, however, argue that its extremity is in fact its true strength, the true evidence of its ethical nature.

As the authors explain, there are three classes of newborns that can be euthanized under the Groningen Protocol, including: 1) Those who have no chance of survival, 2) those who “may survive after a period of intensive treatment but expectations for their future are very grim;” and 3) those “who do not depend on technology for physiologic stability and whose suffering is severe, sustained, and cannot be alleviated.”

Peter Singer: No Longer an Isolated Kook

Pro-life bioethicist Wesley J. Smith responds:

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.

Writing about the Hastings Center report in a LifeSiteNews editorial that deserves to be quoted at length, John Jalsevac trenchantly observes:

There was a time, not so long ago, when pro-lifers, in an effort to galvanize the apathetic, would recount to them the disturbing opinions of a certain Princeton professor, Peter Singer, who, amongst other things, has long held that it is ethical to kill disabled newborn children.

For instance, in a 2006 interview Singer was asked point-blank: “Would you kill a disabled baby?” His response? “Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole.”

“Many people find this shocking,” he continued, “yet they support a woman’s right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.” …

But never mind that. The point is that, for a while anyway, and in the not so distant past, Peter Singer was the lone, wild figure standing on the farthest fringe of the ethics community, shunned by social conservatives and liberals alike – by the former as the very mouthpiece of evil, the very embodiment of the Culture of Death, and by the latter as much “too extreme”.

It is a funny thing, though, about the social left, with its ever fluid notion of truth and blind faith in the goodness of “progress” and “change”, that an opinion that is one day deemed “too extreme”, very soon becomes “edgy,” and then “progressive” and, before you know it, “acceptable” or “ethical”.

And so for pro-life activists it comes as no surprise that Singer’s once-appalling opinions about infanticide have now jumped firmly into the mainstream, with the publication of a sober, though enthusiastic 10-page defense of newborn euthanasia in the prestigious journal of bioethics, the Hastings Center Report. With the appearance of this article, entitled “Ending the Life of a Newborn”, infanticide has become no longer, “extreme”, nor “edgy”, but sits somewhere on the cusp of “progressive” and “ethical”.

It is true that for the time being this may only be strictly true within the more educated, elite circles of the left; but history has proven time and again that ideas that gain momentum in the world’s ivory towers inevitably filter down to the public. In this, the digital age, the age of communication, this process takes place at a breathtaking rate.

For the time being it is true that most people will continue to be appalled at the notion of newborn euthanasia; but, unless the acceptance of legalized infanticide amongst the leftist elite is vigorously fought with the proper intellectual and propagandist weapons, the idea will soon begin to be acceptable to the “man on the street” as well. Unless fought, the idea of infant euthanasia will filter down from the journals of bioethics to the newspapers and the news channels, in the same process of supersaturation and normalization that saw homosexuality go from being perceived as a grave crime against nature, society, and oneself, to perfectly normal, even commendable, in a little over a decade.

Indeed, Jalsevac’s caution must be heeded.

Share Tweet Email