Bioethics — Should they encourage the killing of unwanted newborn infants?

Journal/Website: 
Exclusive for HaciendaPublishing.com
Article Type: 
Editorial
Published Date: 
Sunday, July 12, 2015

In medicine and surgery, traditional medical ethics have been based on the Oath of Hippocrates that has endured through the centuries because its precepts are patient-oriented — namely, that the first consideration of the physician is the needs of the individual patient. Doctors are sworn to do no harm and to advise and do what is in the best interest of their patients; third-party payers, insurers, society and the State are (or should be) secondary considerations.

For several decades progressive academicians have been pushing for a new term — i.e., bioethics.[3] And even more recently, a newer term, tailor-made for the neurosciences and neurosurgical specialties, has come into vogue — i.e., neuroethics.[2]

Bioethics (and potentially neuroethics) is based on utilitarianism and collectivist, population-based ethics that are susceptible to manipulation by social engineers, and the influence of government monetary and funding considerations.[1-4] Bioethics and the veterinary ethic are applicable to humane animal research and when treating sick and injured animals — in which the veterinarian does not act necessarily in the best interest of the injured animal, but according to the wishes of the animal's owner, the person responsible for paying the bill — but not sick human patients.[2-4]

InfanticideBioethics is not concerned with individual autonomy, natural law, moral principles, or the dignity of human life, as it claims. Instead, its tenets are based on situational ethics, moral relativism, utilitarianism, and what is in the best interest of society or more apropos, the State. Attorney and moral philosopher Wesley Smith has called the bioethics movement “a culture of death” because it supports euthanasia of the elderly and infirm; abortion on demand; physician-assisted suicide; the withholding of food and water for terminally or chronically ill patients, etc.[8] (The telling image on the left is courtesy of Georgia Right to Life.) Pope Benedict XVI decried the movement and reaffirmed the tenets of beneficence, nonmaleficence, natural law, and the sanctity of human life.[9]

As far as the reach of the bioethics movement, I thought I had heard it all with the call for a limit to human life by age 75[4] and the concept of the “duty to die.”[3,8] But I was wrong. The most recent call by some of its members is for infanticide, the horrendous killing of healthy newborn infants, with or without congenital anomalies or defects, as inconvenient superfluities to be discarded like unwanted trash. And the article has been so popular with bioethicists that it has been published and republished with ghastly élan by various biomedical journals, including the Journal of Medical Ethics and the prestigious British Medical Journal.[7]

In the landmark article, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” — authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, writing from their respective Centres for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at two respected universities in Australia, argue that “having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children, regardless of the condition of the fetus.”[7]

Therefore society’s answer to the dilemma of unwanted children in the minds of these bioethicists should be the legal killing of the newborns, which they refer to as “after-birth abortions.” The moral justification propounded by these philosophers/bioethicists is that newborns do not have the “moral standing” of persons and the potentiality for the development into persons is “morally irrelevant.”[7] Moreover, parental adoption, they claim, is not always in the best interest of the parties involved. Interestingly enough, although the article has made the circuit in the bioethical circles, the American media, quick to report progressive ideas with which they uniformly agree, have hushed up the shocking proposals. And this is with good reason, for in their conclusion the authors agree that if abortion of normal healthy fetuses is permissible, they see no reason why it cannot be so for newborn infants, who like fetuses, are also potential but not actual moral persons.[7]

We have been sliding down the slippery slope of utilitarian bioethics and moral relativism for some time, but few physicians — if published letters to editors in newspapers or medical journals is any guide — seem to have noticed and objected. Of course editors decide what gets and does not get published, and frequently they play the role of censors, subject only to the rule of being pipers playing the tune called for by expedient and pragmatic medical organizations.  It must be admitted then that those of us who have been warning about a slippery slope have turned out to be correct. But is it to late to stop the slide of moral relativism in science and medicine, if not in the cesspool of the popular culture?

As I have written elsewhere, Dr. Leo Alexander, an eminent psychiatrist and chief U.S. medical consultant at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials described how German physicians became willing accomplices with the Nazis in Ktenology, “the science of killing.” Dr. Alexander wrote that “from small beginnings” the values of an entire society may be subverted, and “it is the first seemingly innocent step away from principle that frequently decides a life of crime. Corrosion begins in microscopic proportions.”[5]

Many deluded people may think this is personal freedom. It is not; it is a violation of the natural right to (and the sanctity of) life. Life precedes liberty. Governments have a penchant to arrogate political power to enforce expedient fiscal considerations. What if the State bolstered by political expediency and the fiscal burden of some unwanted babies — just as the old and infirm who are already subject to euthanasia in some countries — decides that newborns with disabilities or even normal babies are not worth the expense?

Are we already too far down the slippery slope of the bioethics movement to stop its utilitarian tenets and moral relativism stemming from the dystopia of academia from permeating into society and in preventing the State from assuming these dangerous prerogatives?

References

1. Blaylock RL. National Health Insurance (Part II): Any Social Utility in the Elderly? HaciendaPublishing.com, September 26, 2009. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/articles/national-health-insurance-part-ii-any-social-utility-elderly-russell-l-blaylock-md

2. Faria MA. The road being paved to neuroethics: A path leading to bioethics or to neuroscience medical ethics? Surg Neurol Int [serial online] 2014 [cited 2015 Feb 12];5:146. Available from: http://surgicalneurologyint.com/surgicalint_articles/the-road-being-paved-to-neuroethics-a-path-leading-to-bioethics-or-to-neuroscience-medical-ethics/

3. Faria MA. Bioethics — The life and death issue. HaciendaPublishing.com, October 24, 2012. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/randomnotes/bioethics-%E2%80%94-life-and-death-issue

4. Faria MA. Bioethics and why I hope to live beyond age 75 attaining wisdom! — A rebuttal to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel's 75 Age limit. HaciendaPublishing.com, November 5, 2014. Available from: http://surgicalneurologyint.com/surgicalint_articles/bioethics-and-why-i-hope-to-live-beyond-age-75-attaining-wisdom-a-rebuttal-to-dr-ezekiel-emanuels-75-age-limit/ 

5. Faria MA. Euthanasia, medical science, and the road to genocide. Medical Sentinel 1998; 3:79-83. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/medicalsentinel/euthanasia-medical-science-and-road-genocide

6. Faria MA. Religious morality (and secular humanism) in Western civilization as precursors to medical ethics: A historic perspective. Surg Neurol Int 16-Jun-2015;6:105. Available from: http://surgicalneurologyint.com/surgicalint_articles/religious-morality-and-secular-humanism-in-western-civilization-as-precursors-to-medical-ethics-a-historic-perspective/

7. Giubilini A, Minerva F. After birth abortion: why should the baby live?  J Med Ethics (2012). doi:10.1136/medethics-2011-100411. Available from: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full

8. Smith WJ. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books; 2000.  Review available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/medicalsentinel/bioethics-movement-emerging-culture-death

9. Wickham ED. Repackaging Death as Life — The Third Path to Imposed Death. Presented at the Annual Life Conference Raleigh, North Carolina, October 23, 2010. Citing Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 address to the Pontifical Academy for Life. Available from: http://www.lifetree.org/newsletter/2010-11-02.html

Article written by: Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine. He is an Associate Editor in Chief and a World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI), and an Ex-member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2002-05; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002), Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).

Edited versions of this article appeared in the Macon Telegraph, July 22, 2015, and under the title "Progressive Bioethicists Encouraging the Killing of Newborn Babies" on GOPUSA, July 28, 2015. 

This article can be cited as: Faria MA. Bioethics — Should they encourage the killing of unwanted newborn infants? HaciendaPublishing.com, July 12, 2015. Available from:  http://haciendapub.com/articles/bioethics-%E2%80%94-should-they-encourage-killing-unwanted-newborn-infants

Copyright ©2015 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

 

Your rating: None Average: 5 (7 votes)
Comments on this post

Hippocrates on Abortion & infanticide

More comments in the Macon Telegraph article 7/23/15

Willie Bean: Dr. Faria, Thank you for this thought provoking article. It lead me to research the Hippocratic oath.I saw where it had been changed many times but these words from the original fifth century version spoke volumes to me. It's a simple solution to a complex problem in my opinion.

"Nor shall any man's entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so. Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.”

Dr. Richard Elliot: Mr. Bean, Good observation. It should also be noted that, as life-saving technologies have emerged, so has an ethical question: what should be done when a mother's life will almost certainly be lost unless an abortion is performed?

Dr. Miguel Faria: Although the percentage that fall into that categorically is relatively small, Hippocrates and the School of Cos solved the moral dilemma as to the priority of the mother over the child. The dilemma was solved with common sense as well as derived from the Aristotelian logic of actuality versus potentiality. I have summarized it as follows in a previous article:

“Hippocratic physicians, as required by the Oath, generally repudiated abortion (except when the life of the mother was in danger, for the life of the mother was apprised above that of the unborn baby), but generally they deemed abortion unacceptable medical practice. Needless to say, active euthanasia was strictly proscribed by Hippocratic teachings; otherwise the physician was only bound by his oath to consider what was to the benefit of his patient. Most importantly of all: physicians' obligations were restricted to their individual patients, not to society at large.”[1]

Felton Swicord: Dr. Elliott ....C. Everett Koop said, "In my 36 years I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother's life." Do you know personally of any case? At any rate, why does society always talk about saving the mother?

References

1. Faria MA. Transformation of Medical Ethics Through Time (Part I): Medical Ethics and Statist Controls. Medical Sentinel 1998;3(1):19-24.

2. See also: Prioreschi P. The Hippocratic Oath, Abortion, Greek Homosexuality, and the Courts. Medical Sentinel 1997;2(2):54-60.




Bioethics and infanticide

In response to the short version of this article published in the Macon Telegraph, the following comment was posted:

Dear Dr. Faria, As always you write of interesting things in provocative ways. I want only to clarify several things - the difference between bioethics and medical ethics. You state that "Bioethics is not concerned with individual autonomy, moral principles or the dignity of human life. Instead, its tenets are based on situational ethics, moral relativism, utilitarianism and what is in the best interest of society, not the individual citizen." All the sources with which I am familiar, and which are widely used for teaching, would seem to disagree. Autonomy, the principle that personal choices ought to receive priority when decisions are made, is usually accorded very high value among ethicists (bioethicists or medical ethicists). Yes, sometimes the effects of a decision might have such significance for others that individual choices have to be secondary to the needs of society - should individuals with tuberculosis who are at risk for infecting others be free to choose whether or not to quarantine themselves? Or should societal needs require limitations on individual freedom to preserve the greater good?

The distinction between bioethics and medical ethics I find most useful is that both can apply to medical decisions, but bioethics also considers broader ethical concerns of a biological nature, e.g., what steps are justifiable regarding preservation of a globally significant resource such as the Amazon rain forest?

As for Wesley Smith, while I don't necessarily disagree with all of his opinions, I find his take on medical ethics to be idiosyncratic and polemical. Even when I agree with his conclusions, I find his ad hominem arguments unpersuasive, and I disagree very much with the dismissive way he treats those with whom he disagrees.

Richard L. Elliott, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Director, Professionalism and Medical Ethics
Mercer University School of Medicine
Adjunct professor, Mercer University School of Law

Moral bioethicists?

Dr. Richard L. Elliot: All the sources with which I am familiar, and which are widely used for teaching, would seem to disagree. Autonomy, the principle that personal choices ought to receive priority when decisions are made, is usually accorded very high value among ethicists (bioethicists or medical ethicists).

Dr. Miguel A. Faria: We have had considerable discussion about the difference between traditional medical ethicists and bioethicists for the last three decades and articles to that effect have been published in JAMA and at least three publications in which I have served as medical editor: Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia (1993-1995), the Medical Sentinel (1996-2003), and Surgical Neurology International (SNI; 2010-present). In fact we have had at least four articles on the subject in the last two years in SNI.

As far as disagreeing with my characterization of bioethicists and as to their priority for autonomy, we can review statements made, not by death-obsessed crackpots but by leading biomedical ethicists on this topic. Daniel Callahan, Professor of Bioethics and former Director, now President Emeritus, of the Hastings Center[1]; and Professor John Hardwig at the University of Tennessee have both affirmed that elderly patients, who had lived a full life as well as those citizens whose lives had become not worth living because of chronic disease, have a "duty to die" for the good of society and the proper utilization of societal health resources. Hardwig has gone farther than that denying individual autonomy by asserting there is “responsibility to end one's life in the absence of any terminal illness…a duty to die when one would prefer to live…even those who want to live can face a duty to die.[4] Peter Singer, Utilitarian Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University has asserted that “Fetuses like newborns lack the essential characteristics of personhood — 'rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness’ and therefore ‘killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.’ ”[2][3]

More recently, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S National Institute of Health and one of the architects of Obamacare, is more subtle and more persuasive. He proposes that we should all die by age 75 because "we are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic." Dr. Emanuel claims he is not advocating euthanasia at age 75 "in order to save resources, ration health care, or address public-policy issues," but that is exactly what he is inferring and in fact later makes utilitarian proposals to redistribute health resources from the old and infirm to the younger generation, reminiscent of the policies in Germany before World War II.[5]

It is no wonder that with all this obsession to push society towards "a duty to die" mindset and euthanasia, regardless of personal choice, for the most vulnerable in out society — not necessarily respecting individual autonomy, as it is claimed by some as “the right to die,” but really for utilitarian reasons, the conservation and redistribution of resources — moral philosopher Wesley Smith has pointedly call the bioethics movement a “culture of death.”[6]

References

1. Callahan, Daniel. "On Feeding the Dying," Hastings Center Report 1983;13(5):22. Much more can be found in Daniel Callahan’s book, Setting Limits — Medical Goals in an Aging Society. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
2. Singer, Peter. FAQ. III: The Sanctity of Human Life. Princeton University, March 2009.
3. Singer, Peter. "An Interview” in Writings on an Ethical Life. 2001, p. 319–329.
4. Hardwig, John. Is there a duty to die? Hastings Center Report 1997;27(2):34-42. In this comprehensive article, Hardwig goes to great lengths to defend his rationalization for “the duty to die” and enumerates all of the criteria for death, "even for those individuals who would prefer to live.”
5. Emanuel, EJ. Why I Hope to Die at 75: An argument that society and families — and you — will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly. The Atlantic, September 17, 2014. 
6. Smith, WJ. Culture of Death — The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2000. Book Review available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/medicalsentinel/bioethics-movement-emerging-c...

Bioethics—dangerous to life, health, longevity!

Dear Richard,

You may want to read the full version of this article posted here, which has references for all the statements asserted therein, before you proceed.

Your “sources” may disagree on what I stated because I’m almost certain they are bioethicists themselves defending their own turf. Can you specifically cite what they disagree with? While it is true that autonomy seems to be respected at this time, we can not be sure that will be so in the future given the direction we are headed, as reported in my article. Public health safety should take priority in the setting you mention of course, e.g., quarantine, clean water, hygiene, sanitation, etc, but that is a far cry from what we are talking about here. We are talking about the “duty to die,” euthanasia, and late birth abortions, now; and possibly “after-birth” abortions, infanticide, and active euthanasia with or without patient consent as in some countries in Europe, later.

Unfortunately because of space constraints, you read the much shorter version of this article in the Macon Telegraph, which also did not include the references. The original longer version posted here addresses some of the concerns you mention more fully. I made some distinctions between medical ethics and bioethics and admitted that bioethics may cover areas not addressed in medical ethics:

“Bioethics (and potentially neuroethics) is based on utilitarianism and collectivist, population-based ethics that are susceptible to manipulation by social engineers, and the influence of government monetary and funding considerations. Bioethics and the veterinary ethic are applicable to humane animal research and when treating sick and injured animals — in which the veterinarian does not act necessarily in the best interest of the injured animal, but according to the wishes of the animal's owner, the person responsible for paying the bill — but not sick human patients.”

You mentioned yet other areas, but again the Amazon rain forests is not what we are discussing here.

You disagree with the way that Wesley Smith may present the issues, but yet you do not deny that bioethics is about the “euthanasia of the elderly and infirm; abortion on demand; physician-assisted suicide; the withholding of food and water for terminally or chronically ill patients, etc., essentially what Smith calls a ”culture of death.” The autonomy that bioethicists claim to support is here for now for some patients, but not all, and once the government gets into the act and sanctioned by the State for the reasons stated, “the duty to die” maybe set upon us when we are old or chronically ill and a burden to society, whether we like it or not, just as with those healthy newborn babies and infants the two bioethicists claim have no moral standing as persons and can be killed at will!

And now that I answered your questions, can you comment and answer mine own as addressed in my concluding remarks?

“Many deluded people may think this is personal freedom. It is not; it is a violation of the natural right to (and the sanctity of) life. Life precedes liberty. Governments have a penchant to arrogate political power to enforce expedient fiscal considerations. What if the State bolstered by political expediency and the fiscal burden of some unwanted babies — just as the old and infirm who are already subject to euthanasia in some countries — decides that newborns with disabilities or even normal babies are not worth the expense?

“Are we already too far down the slippery slope of the bioethics movement to stop its utilitarian tenets and moral relativism stemming from the dystopia of academia from permeating into society and in preventing the State from assuming these dangerous prerogatives?”

Sincerely,

MAF