Killer Stroke for Humanity

Published in the Courier Mail 10 Nov 06

WE ARE creating for ourselves an unconsidered world. We think we are making decisions for others yet we are, in reality, making decisions for ourselves. Perhaps unwittingly, we have argued away our own value.

Three recent events paint a sobering picture for humanity.

This week’s vote to clone humans in embryo form is one. Faced with making a decision with profound ethical consequences, our senators willingly or unwittingly passed a value judgment on you, and me, and themselves.

Choosing to follow dubious and confusing scientific advice, chasing the dream of miracle cures, our politicians clearly communicated that the scientific exploitation of humans is OK.

Ironically, an amendment was put forward, and accepted, to exclude animal eggs from cloning to prevent exploitation of animals. Commendable, but why not give the same protection for people?

We try to rationalise that it is OK to kill two-week embryos. We can’t visually recognise the humanity of the baby. We’re convinced we can put boundaries in place.

Or maybe not. Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology has proposed this week that doctors be able to kill disabled newborns. They suggest that a disabled child means a disabled family. (I’d call them a courageous and compassionate family instead, but perhaps that’s beside the point.)

Discussing his support for this proposal, Professor John Harris, of the UK Government’s Human Genetics Commission, suggested it was a logical progression of late-term abortion.

“What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it OK to kill the fetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?” he asked.

He’s right, of course, but that does not necessarily mean we should kill newborns. Maybe it tells us we should rethink abortion.

We have started treating humans as commodities and assessing them according to their perceived economic or social value. We will clone them, use them to possibly advantage us and destroy them. We will allow them to live only if they have what we deem as a life of quality and usefulness.

Such a utilitarian approach to life denies the inherent value of humanity and sets us up as judge and jury over another. That is arrogance in the extreme.

A young Brisbane man was born 23 years age without arms or legs. While doctors assessed his situation as hopeless, his parents, with emotional, spiritual and practical support, were determined to give him every opportunity. He now lives a largely independent life and travels internationally as a motivational speaker, largely to high-school students.

If he was conceived or born now, it would be assumed his situation was hopeless and it would be more “merciful” to kill him. That should trouble us.

Furthermore, while we expressed outrage and disgust at the recent attack by a group of teenagers on a disabled woman in Melbourne, we expose our own hypocrisy by condemning that crime yet championing abortion or infanticide for the disabled.

Aren’t people inherently valuable no matter how long it’s been since their conception? Aren’t you?

Our young people reveal to us the reality our decisions are creating. We have been able to live off the moral and spiritual inheritance afforded us by the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of this nation. However, we have squandered this and without continuing investment we are close to finding ourselves morally bankrupt.

Just this week, our young people have reflected back to us the implications of the world view demonstrated in the cloning vote.

As a young German woman stood on the edge of a high-rise ready to jump, a crowd of spectators gathered. A group of teenagers in the crowd started yelling out and encouraging the woman to jump and kill herself.

Some homeless people in the crowd took exception to this and used strong language telling the teenagers that what they were doing was wrong, and a punch-up ensued.

It seems teenagers have correctly extrapolated the values we have taught them, whether it is attacking a disabled woman or encouraging someone to kill themselves. We may not like what that reveals to us, but we would be wise to consider it – and then perhaps, reconsider.

Ruth Limkin is a Brisbane pastor and social commentator