By Ruth Limkin
You’ve probably heard about it by now, as it’s been picked up in both social media and mainstream media.
Two philosophers working in Australian universities published an article in the British Medical Journal, arguing that it is morally defensible to kill newborns. They contend that whether the child has an illness, chromosomal condition such as Down Syndrome, or whether the mother is unwilling to care for the child, it can be killed.
Their moral justification for this is because the “baby is not harmed by missing out on a life it cannot conceptualise”.
There is an element of truth in what they say. The baby cannot conceptualise it’s life.
However, neither can I.
My life has taken so many twists and turns that I never conceptualised. I have had experiences and opportunities I never imagined, never expected and certainly never conceptualised. While I am certainly self-aware, as are babies, I have no more ability to predict or even to conceptualise with certainty how my day will finish, much less what the next month or year holds.
With the logic being promulgated by these philosophers, I have no claim on life either. And neither do you.
Following the uproar, the British Medical Journal has been forced to defend the article’s publication. Editor Julian Savulescu expressed his (rightful) concern that the authors of the piece have received death threats and said, ”What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited … Proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat.”
What an interesting situation they have found themselves in. In expressing a sense of being disturbed by the response, it seems neither the editor nor authors conceptualised how their life would be affected by the article’s publication. The tragic irony is that their own line of reasoning provides the moral justification for the (inexcusable) threats they are receiving.
Death threats are completely unacceptable. The authors of this paper, along with the editor who published it, have intrinsic worth as fellow human beings. We should recognise the inherent value in one another, at all stages of life, rather than reducing it to a subjective measure.
In the end, this is all very revealing. It shows the fuss is, in fact, that killing newborns reduces every person’s claim to life.
It doesn’t take a university education to recognise how wrong that is.
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