by Steven Ertelt
November 8, 2006
London, England (LifeNews.com) — A British disability rights group is criticizing a call by England’s leading physicians organization suggesting that doctors use euthanasia to kill newborn babies who are born prematurely and have severe brain damage or major physical problems. The group says euthanasia will spread to older patients if accepted for infants.
Alison Davis of No Less Human, says disabled people are "appalled and afraid" by the suggestion from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecology that killing the infants is preferable to any extensive surgeries or other treatments.
"Already we are aware that disabled babies are killed up to birth because of ‘severe disability,’" she said, pointing to the abortion of unborn children with disabilities.
"Once it is established that killing is acceptable on grounds of disability it is inevitable that it will spread to encompass increasing numbers of victims," Davis, who has both spina bifida and hydrocephalus, explained.
"The philosopher John Harris has made the point that there is no ethical difference between killing unborn disabled children and killing those who are born," Davis added. "This is true, but his conclusion that therefore both are acceptable is false. Deliberate killing on grounds of disability is always wrong regardless of the age or status of the victim."
Davis said her group would join with the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children to protest outside the RCOG headquarters and would launch a petition against the organization’s position.
The RCOG suggestion came in the form of a list of recommendations to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which is looking into ethical issues brought about by advances in medicine.
Euthanasia is prohibited in England but the Royal College insisted it be included in the guidelines and suggested that medical care for extremely disabled babies would be a financial, social and emotional drain on the parents.
"A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making," the group wrote, according to a London Times news report.
"We would like the working party to think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test, and active euthanasia, as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns," it added.
The recommendation included both active euthanasia, directly killing a newborn, and passive euthanasia, which would included cases where lifesaving medical treatment would be withheld.
The group also said promoting euthanasia would reduce late-term abortions as parents could go ahead with the birth and kill the baby afterwards if they decide she would have too much trouble leading a healthy life.
The UK’s Disabled People’s Council vehemently rejected the idea and said doctors don’t have a right to determine which disabled patients live or die.
The call comes just weeks after the second part of a study showing doctors in England are less likely to engage in euthanasia or assisted suicide than their European counterparts.
Last November, lawmakers in the House of Lords introduced a private members bill to legalize assisted suicide but pro-life, religious and doctor’s groups were able to defeat it.