In a paper published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Schuklenk wrote, “The parents should be able to freely decide on what would amount to postnatal abortion. Euthanasia would even be preferable to “terminal sedation,” where food and liquids are removed from a dying patient, because it would save parents and medical staff the distress of seeing a baby waste away over days or weeks. The child does not suffer in that scenario — which can and does occur now in Canada — but “it’s a terrible thing to witness.”
Schuklenk’s statement is literally unbelievable; he’s basically saying that parents should have the right to kill their infant if they believe their child’s suffering warrants death. Practically, how does that work? Schuklenk argues that postnatal abortions would only be provided to parents who have severely impaired or suffering newborns; but who decides if a child meets that criteria?
And wow— according to this “ethicist” starving to death isn’t a painful experience and the only reason “terminal sedation” is preferred is because observing a newborn die from lack of nutrients is “hard to watch.” Although killing a person with a lethal dose of drugs is no better than starving them to death, dying from dehydration and starvation is in no way, shape, or form a painless death. Take, for example, how Bobby Schinder, the brother of Terri Schiavo, described his sister’s condition in her final days after her feeding tube was removed.
He said, “I watched my own sister, Terri Schiavo, anguish through almost two weeks without food or water and there are no words that can properly describe the inhumanity. In her last days, we would not permit our mother to visit Terri, in an effort to spare her additional torment, as blood pooled in Terri’s eyes, and her skin and lips were terribly cracked because her tissues were lacking any moisture. Terri’s body turned different colors of blue and yellow and her breathing became so rapid, it was as if she was outside sprinting. I could go on.”
Theology professor Gilbert Meilanender, who served as the ethics advisor for President George W. Bush disagreed with Schuklenk’s philosophy. He believes that exercising ultimate authority over the life of another is wrong. Meilanender said, “If we simply sweep such children off our doorstep every morning with euthanasia, medicine will never learn better ways to help them and others like them.”
Alex Schadenberg, the leader of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, also spoke out against Schuklenk’s view. He said, “What you’re doing is declaring that certain types of human beings have a life which we in society have determined is not worth living, which would be considered by another group of people as a eugenic philosophy.”
The Ontario research chair in bioethics also headed the Royal Society of Canada’s 2011 panel on end-of-life decision making. He wrote the opinion piece after being invited to debate the newborn issue at a conference of the American Association of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery in Toronto earlier this year.
Even as the concept of euthanasia picks up momentum in Canada, applying it to children has not been on the table. The new Quebec assisted-death law — like those in five U.S. states — applies only to mentally competent adult patients. An assisted-suicide case now before the Supreme Court of Canada also revolves around adults who can choose their own fate.
The Netherlands does permit euthanasia of some newborns. Still, it makes sense for Canadians to first address the situation of consenting adults, whether or not they decide later to allow assisted-death for others, too, said Prof. Schuklenk.
Opponents of euthanasia, though, are voicing dismay that the academic would even suggest that doctors and parents be allowed to terminate the life of a severely disabled newborn.
Well isn’t that a relief; euthanizing newborns isn’t on the “acceptable list” of ethical decisions for the severely disabled in Canada— at least not yet. However, the article is correct by saying that killing newborns is allowed in other places around the world. As Lifenews previously reported, 22 babies have been killed in the Netherlands because they had spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus – conditions which many disabled people live with in America. Although there is protocol that must be followed to kill a child under the age of 12, these children are not terminal and could have many years left to live.
Ultimately, Schuklenk’s philosophy highlights the problem with the “death with dignity” movement. As I’ve said before, when we begin to take matters of life and death into our own hands, we travel down a dangerous path that leads to infanticide, euthanasia and evils we’ve never seen before. The truth of the matter is regardless of disability, “time left to live”, or even the amount of suffering a person is enduring, life is always worth living and always worth fighting for.