Scholarly Medical Ethics Journal: Why Not Baby Killing?


The abstract below comes from this month’s Journal of Medical Ethics, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. It embodies the icy, amoral detachment of utilitarian medical ethics.  The argument of the Australian authors from the University of Melbourne echoes that made for many years by Princeton University bioethics professor Peter Singer.

Based on utilitarian premises, the article concludes that newborn babies, like infants in the womb,  are not fully human persons. Therefore (to use a “nuanced” word) the conclusion is that it is ethical to “terminate” newborns. The professors emphasize that this is true “even if the baby is not disabled.” In the absence of limits, is it then ethical, to use the less nuanced word, for parents to kill the baby if she doesn’t quite look like “the Gerber baby” … or cries annoyingly at night?

Remember: this new article appears in a leading, peer-reviewed “scholarly” journal of medical ethics. It not alarmist conjecture.

The article argues that killing newborn babies is moral whether or not the child is disabled. Of course, if the baby does happen to be sick or disabled, others besides the parents often are affected, especially in a future world of national health insurance. In an amoral, utilitarian society, why wouldn’t the Department of Human Services defend the low cost of health insurance by deciding to end the baby’s life, trumping the pleas of her parents?

Following the abstract, see also the rebuttal by a noted Princeton scholar and opponent of abortion who has long disputed Peter Singer’s utilitarian “logic”:

JOURNAL OF MEDICAL ETHICS An international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in medical ethics Journal of Medical J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2011-100411                 

After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

Alberto Giubilini, Department of Philosophy, University of Milan, Milan, Italy; Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia                      Francesca Minerva, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University, Oxford, UK  Contributors AG and FM contributed equally to the manuscript.                                                                                                                              Published Online First 23 February 2012

Abstract                                                                                         Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

REBUTTAL: See the analysis by Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Robert P. George, who is also one of the foremost scholars who opposes abortion:

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About Ray Noble

Deus et Patria -- A Website for Americans Who Enjoy Being Catholic ... and Vice Versa. ABOUT ME: Retired lawyer-law professor-author. Raised in NJ, now living in Florida. Widower and Father. EDUCATION ACHIEVEMENTS: Summa Cum Laude, Undergrad debating scholarship, Fulbright scholarship, Campion Scholar at Oxford University, Presidential Scholar at Boston College Law School, law review editor. DIVERSE PROFESSIONAL LIFE: Corporate lawyer, state (NJ) Deputy Atty General for Civil Rights, Law school associate professor (St. John's University), legal writer, author of guide for women at the request of the New Jersey League of Women Voters, state judiciary's chief of long range planning, state bar association's chief counsel, USIA law reform rep in Gaza and the West Bank, co-founder and overseer of 9/11 Mass Disaster relief program for World Trade Center victims. In 2001, after 33 years of marriage and 8 children (6 living daughters), Alice, the love of my life (my high school sweetheart), died when she was only 55 years old. I still miss her deeply and always will. But in 2002, an unexpected, new chapter began when I left the practice of law and became a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal for 3 blessed years. I served in the Hispanic apostolate and the pro-life ministry, counseling outside abortion mills in Manhattan and the Bronx. I loved the CFRs' radical commitment to poverty. I also treasured the abundant daily prayer that included Mass, the Divine Office, daily Eucharistic adoration and rosary, and both communal and private contemplative prayer. But in 2005, while I was still in temporary vows, one of my daughters was hospitalized, with long term needs. It became clear to others and to me that my 3 years as a friar.was to become a prelude to other things. Retiring to central Florida, I continue to see my daughter's needs as my first commitment. I also work to combat human trafficking. In my parish ministries and in my life as a single senior citizen, I try to continue the life I knew as a friar as much as I can. This website is a recent development. I hope you find it helpful and, at least occasionally, fun. I do.
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4 Responses to Scholarly Medical Ethics Journal: Why Not Baby Killing?

  1. kenschneider says:

    Not having read the entire article in context, I assume it is quite effective satire.

    • deusetpatria says:

      No. Doctor. This is not mere satire but the very logical conclusion of utilitarian ethical premises being seriously proposed in a scholarly, peer-reviewed medical journal by prominent medical ethicists. Nor is this new at all: it is precisely what Princeton University bioethics professor Peter Singer has been saying in his plethora of medical ethics books for decades. See the link on this at the end of this blog by Singer’s great nemesis at Princeton, Jurisprudence Professor Robert P. George.

  2. kenschneider says:

    I assumed it was a scholarly refutation of abortion by following logic to this ridiculous conclusion: “reductio ad absurdum.” Of course,there were some who did not take the Nazis seriously.

    • deusetpatria says:

      These two authors have long been devotees of the Peter Singer school of utilitarian medical ethics throughout their careers. They most definitely aren’t satirists. While I agree with you that their utilitarian conclusion is ludicrous, it is nonetheless a very logical result based on their tragically flawed starting premise that defines “the good” based on mere utility with no concern about what is right, much less any belief in the unique value of human life. Yes, like the Nazis who were often not taken seriously, it’s a grave mistake not to take utilitarian medical ethicists seriously. In our extreme, secularist society, they control the playing field, not us.

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