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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lovely Medical Ethics

This is the link to the BMJ position piece arguing that "after-birth abortions" should be allowed. It is a deeply philosophical piece written by two Australians that bases the the plan on the fact that babies are darned inconvenient. This, of course, is indisputable. Babies ARE darned inconvenient.

Naturally there are many restrictions as to when such "abortions" (aka whacking a baby) would be permitted:
1) The parents, or at least the mother, would have to be in favor of it.

At least for now, because the line of reasoning that generated this conclusion grapples with some deep philosophical issues such as:
Although it is reasonable to predict that living with a very severe condition is against the best interest of the newborn, it is hard to find definitive arguments to the effect that life with certain pathologies is not worth living, even when those pathologies would constitute acceptable reasons for abortion. It might be maintained that ‘even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down's syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child’.3 But, in fact, people with Down's syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.5

Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.
So in fact the state is a player here. Just letting the mother that isn't able (psychologically or economically) to keep or raise the baby give that little expensive, inconvenient bundle of irritation up for adoption wouldn't save the taxpayers any money, would it? And to think that if you let Down's syndrome babies grow up, they have the indecency to be happy. It's very frustrating. It just makes you want to smack Sarah Palin right in the kisser, doesn't it? She eats moose and she raises damned inconvenient babies, and she's an enemy of the state and all true persons, especially if those persons have antlers.

It is also essentially true that in socialism, the state is your mommy. This has always been theorized as being beneficial, because the Uber-mommy state is richer, kinder and more caring than your own mommy. But now it turns out that she's not, so maybe we might want to rethink this.

Since at-will abortions are acceptable based on the mother's preference, it clearly follows that she can choose to whack the kid if it inconveniently happens to be born.

Having earlier made an approving reference to the Groningen Protocol, the author perceives the problem - "euthanizing" a kid under that protocol places too many restrictions on the euthanizers:
Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.
Ah, that explains everything. You may be thinking "huh, Peter Singer was an Australian too." So true, and here again we get the explanation that it's not okay to kill a dog or a goose, but whacking a baby is just fine:
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons.
There are times when I have trouble not believing in the demonic. Personally every baby I have known showed a pretty stern (and grossly inconvenient) will to live, including hollering his/her guts right out should any discomfort be experienced.

I still maintain that this means it is perfectly okay to kill your snoozing husband, especially if he has encroached on your side of the bed. Admittedly there are difficulties with this position should your husband apply the same logic when you yourself are snoozing in an inconvenient fashion. Locked and highly secure (separate) bed chambers could become a very hot selling point for dwellings in the Australian Ethical Utopia. Wesley J Smith makes the same point in more scholarly terms at his blog.

The esteemed philosophers of death do address the difficulty of adoption, which they only seem to consider as an option for healthy babies:
A possible objection to our argument is that after-birth abortion should be practised just on potential people who could never have a life worth living.9 Accordingly, healthy and potentially happy people should be given up for adoption if the family cannot raise them up. Why should we kill a healthy newborn when giving it up for adoption would not breach anyone's right but possibly increase the happiness of people involved (adopters and adoptee)?
On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption. Birthmothers are often reported to experience serious psychological problems due to the inability to elaborate their loss and to cope with their grief.10 It is true that grief and sense of loss may accompany both abortion and after-birth abortion as well as adoption, but we cannot assume that for the birthmother the latter is the least traumatic. For example, ‘those who grieve a death must accept the irreversibility of the loss, but natural mothers often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible’.
Awesome, isn't it? I suspect this is a satire written with a very different object than it would appear, but it is possible it may not be one. You can never tell with modern ethics, which mainly exists now to reinforce the cult of narcissism. In any case, the email of one of the authors is at the link.

Here is an article about some of the repercussions. It says something, surely, about the Journal of Medical Ethics that it published the piece, and perhaps one to follow:
He also pointed out that the same logic the two ethicist engaged in to prove that therLinke was no moral difference between pre-birth and after-birth abortions could be used to write an article suggesting that both abortion and the killing of newborns should be prohibited. The journal is considering publishing that article now.
That would be truly unique for modern-day medical ethics. There is no pro-life position in modern medical ethics, nor is it considered acceptable to advance one. Savulescu's past publications support the idea that the paper is quite sincere (he wrote a paper claiming that adults should be whacked if they in a vegetative state, and claims that this is even more true if they are in fact conscious). At least one of the authors of the paper appears to have studied under Savulescu.

So think twice before emailing death threats. Also read the last article very carefully.

If you feel rather ill after all this, may I suggest Shrinkwrapped's series on his father's WWII experiences? The concept of the purpose of the citizen being to serve the ends of the state was a founding principle of Nazi, er, civilization. At the time, our culture rejected this theory. Today, it does not.

Nazi Citizenship Law of 1935:
Reich Citizenship Law of September 15, 1935

I. 1. A subject of the State is a person who belongs to the protective union of the German Reich, and who therefore has particular obligations towards the Reich. 2. The status of subject is acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Reich and State Law of Citizenship.

II. 1. A citizen of the Reich is that subject only who is of German or kindred blood and who, through his conduct, shows that he is both desirous and fit to serve the German people and Reich faithfully.
The net effect of the reasoning processes demonstrated in the two ethical papers linked above are to adopt the Nazi definition of personhood in relationship to the state for the purposes of decision making.

As usual, I'm left wondering at the way they're letting it all hang out here. Are they confident they've won, and have no need for pretense any more? Or do they sense the jig is up, and they've nothing left to lose?
I have no idea. It does remind me of C.S. Lewis and N.I.C.E.
Perhaps the technology of the future will allow us to measure each and every one of our Life Worth Living variables several hundred times per second.

We could wear devices as armbands so we'd always know where we stand. It could factor in the pain and suffering that we cause to others through charts on our respective blogs.

I just installed a prototype on my arm (or more accurately, had one installed on my behalf). I don't think it is working properly though. It keeps flashing:


Find 5,400 trillion pennies, stack them up, and all the eons you'll have good luck!

Hey, just a last gasp before I'm expired for the good of all, lol. Sigh.
Mark - Mr. "Last Day" you may be on the graphdex of woe-causation, but also contemplate the extremely short life spans of the CBO statisticians.

Those guys and gals would last about three weeks on the job before they'd be taken off and shot.

We'd be very humanitarian about it though - we'd harvest their organs.
As has been said before, there are some ideas so horrible, only an "intellectual" could consider them. This is not actually a new idea. Peter Sanger, now at Princeton offered the idea in 1993. For now, this idea will go back to sleep, but it will eventually awake again.
It's not exactly unheard of, either. Off the top of my head, Sparta practiced exposure of malformed infants.

Organ sales and free budgies will no doubt save this economy.
Abortions supported by law or not will occur and has nothing to do with Nazi ideology.
At the time, our culture rejected this theory. Today, it does not.

It's the logical conclusion of the welfare state. At the time our culture rejected the welfare state; today it does not.

Regardless, the state seems to have no problem with abortions in the 60th trimester or later. It's just trimesters 3-59 it seems to have a problem with.
Ron - the article isn't talking about abortions. It's talking about killing babies that have already been born.

The argument is that we can get to this admirable advancement in human progress by calling it an "after-birth abortion".
Neil - Athens. Hillside. They exposed unwanted babies.

I think most cultures did this. They did in Japan, etc. Infanticide is as old as human culture.

But then so is slavery, women as distinctly second-class citizens, extremely harsh criminal penalties, etc.

Also earlier cultures didn't have effective birth control and highly effective abortion methods, so one would expect the need for infanticide to plummet relative to earlier cultures. It didn't, of course. Infanticide stopped being accepted in the west as a function of Judeo-Christian law and ethics, just as slavery met its end.
Wooooo- my mind spirals back to sometime in high school (40+ years ago).

Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" suggested that the children of the impoverished Irish might be sold off as a new kind of meat, tasty and delicate, thus reducing the poverty of the parents and the burden of caring for large broods of kids at one fell swoop.

It would have counted as excellent satire if these Australians had made some sort of case for a way to profit from these murders.

Dull plebeians that they are, they totally missed the fact that somebody else made-and-refuted their arguments a couple-hundred years ago...

... or else they REALLY DO NOT have any sense of moral horror...
in which case they are probably Dr. Mengele's associates from the medical-experimentation camps, reborn again to try to find their souls, and utterly failing, still.
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