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Princeton Prof Advocates Euthanizing Handicapped Babies

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the scary-ideas-that-make-you-think dept.

Education 559

GolemII pointed us to this story at The Nando Times about Peter Singer, who teaches bioethics at Princeton, and some of the ruckus he's stirred up by suggesting that parents of severely disabled infants should be allowed to kill them painlessly in order to save them from a life of suffering. (more below.)

An earlier idea of Singer's, that a human life is not necessarily more valuable than an animal's, led (at least in part) to the founding of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] and the Animal Liberation Front.

We're running this here -- after some serious soul-searching -- because Singer raises thorny ethical questions that make people think in new ways even when they don't agree with him, and if there's one thing Slashdot readers are good at, it's coming up with unique reactions to controversial ideas that cause most people to shut down their critical thinking abilities and issue emotional, knee-jerk responses.

The floor is now open. Please try to treat this as an important ethical discussion, not as flamebait. It's a serious -- if frightening -- subject, and the debate now being carried on about it in academic circles will no doubt affect the way we treat our fellow humans and other life forms, both organic and cybernetic, in the 21st century and beyond.

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Response: (1)

The Big D (26921) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634710)

Cambridge Undergraduate Advocates Euthanising Princeton Prof

Euthanizing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1634711)

This is not the correct terminology. How can a handicapped child decide (and make clear to it's parents) that it does not want to live?

What happened to America (3)

Section9 (98240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634712)

People protesting over an Professor of higher learning? What has this country come to?

I don't necessarily agree with his position on euthanization. That doesn't mean that I have to protest him personally.

Further more, to pressure the school to not offer him tenure is inapproptiate at best. Steve Forbes, et. all, neet to relize that there is a commitment that needs to be made. You can't choose to fund higher learning, and then tell the free-thinkers what to believe.

People who throw away pre-concieved notions and think outside of the box are the most important people to support... Lest free speech, and philisophical development come to a screeching halt.

The laws of nature? (1)

198348726583297634 (14535) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634713)

If it weren't for the massive kinds of medical technology, would these babies live on their own? It's not necessarily a good rule, of course, ... but ... if my child was born with one of the most severe kinds of birth defects (having the organs on the outside of the body, rather than the inside; these babies have a zero-percent chance of survival), I'd rather have him or her die painlessly right away than live for a few days in pain and then die.

Of course, I'm not a parent yet, so my mileage may vary.

Human Life, Sentience, and What is a Person (2)

bmetz (523) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634714)

I've always felt very strongly that a human isn't necessariy a person. I've read that full-grown mature dogs operate at the same level of intelligence as a three month old baby. You could get off relatively unharmed for killing the dog, but killing a three month old baby would surely get you a long prison sentence.

People regard the _potential_ for intelligence with perhaps a little too highly. I feel that while there can't be drawn a specific line in the sane, once someone shows that they are self-aware
they are a person. And no sooner. For example, if
a baby was born as a vegetable and was kept alive
in that state for 30 years, I wouldn't consider
that a person, just a human body.

With that in mind, I really don't feel that harming a non-sentient human is the same thing as
harming a mature person. I also, for the same
reasons, beleive strongly in the right of a mother
to decide to abort a child at any stage of

But that said, I'm very aware that my opinions don't translate well into the real world, and they aren't exactly popular, so I guess we're stuck with what we've already got ;)

Thank you Thomas Swift (5)

TheBeginner (30987) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634715)

I would refer agreeing readers too a wonderful piece written by Thomas Swift called a Modest Proposal. In it, Mr. Swift recommends that instead of simply killing and wasting infants, that in fact the most ethical thing to do is recycle them. In other words, kill them, and eat them. If there are starving people in the world, then why should this meat go to waste? Others can use it? Is it not wrong not to use it?

Thomas Swift was being sarcastic, sadly enough, our esteemed bio"ethics" professor is not. The fact of the matter is that there are some things that just seem wrong to us. Without any use of logic, it just seems wrong that retarded children should not have the chance to live simply because they are severely disabled. In cases such as this, the basic instict we have is often correct. However, I'll admit, that there may be a logical point behind Singer's argument.

It is hard to watch someone die. Often we say that it is kinder to pull the plug than watch the suffering. Now I am an agnostic who does not find anything inherently wrong with physician-assisted suicide. However, I think there is a clear difference. One person has had a chance to lead a full life while the other has not. Whatever that life may be, isn't it true that there is at least some moral imperative to giving a child the best life possible.

What if this is all that there is? If there is no heaven or hell or afterlife? Then is it fair to the child to kill it and deprive it of everything. Existence is precious, we should treasure it for ourselves and for others. Pain tells us that we are alive. While it may be hard to watch, until a child can choose for his or herself whether or not to end his/her existence, we have an obligation to preserve that obligation.

Sorry Mr. Singer, but you are wrong.

Please keep this in mind... (1)

hjw (802) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634716)

Do you know someone who is *severely* disabled?
Stop and think about this for a while.

Think Hellen Keller too.

I guess he's not saying that parents *should*, but that parents should have the right.

It's a tough one really.

Do we start to intervene in natural selection with
a species refinement process. That's what this boils down to.

There are two issues here though.

If society accepts this, are we moving towards perhaps defining what the humane genome should always be?

Human Life, Sentience, and What is a Person (2) (0)

bmetz (523) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634717)

(One time I learned to spell. Then I forgot it for the previous version of this post. Sigh.)
I've always felt very strongly that a human isn't necessariy a person. I've read that full-grown mature dogs operate at the same level of intelligence as a three month old baby. You could get off relatively unharmed for killing the dog, but killing a three month old baby would surely get you a long prison sentence.

People regard the _potential_ for intelligence perhaps a little too highly. I feel that while there can't be drawn a specific line in the sand, once someone shows that they are self-aware
they are a person. And no sooner. For example, if
a baby was born as a vegetable and was kept alive
in that state for 30 years, I wouldn't consider
that a person, just a human body.

With that in mind, I really don't feel that harming a non-sentient human is the same thing as
harming a mature person. It's more like harming an animal, grounds for a slap on the wrist at best. I also, for the same reasons, believe strongly in the right of a mother to decide to abort a child at any stage of pregnancy.

But that said, I'm very aware that my opinions don't translate well into the real world, and they aren't exactly popular, so I guess we're stuck with what we've already got ;)

Information on Peter Singer (1)

TheBeginner (30987) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634718)

For those who are interested, I happen to know a little about Mr. Singer. Regardless of my disagreement with this article, Mr. Singer is a very ethical man. He believes that we should give everything not absolutely necessary for our own existence to the hungry, starving and dying. And unlike many who believe this, he actually follows through. He lives a very modest life and provides the majority of his salary to charity each year.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I would not be surprised if Mr. Singer did advocate not only killing disabled children but also feeding them to the hungry. In a book he wrote (can't think of the name, might have been Rich and Poor?) he argued for the absolutely affluent giving everything they possible could to the absolutely poor. In this case, it would probably include any meat. And it would make some sense. Is it not more sensical to allow the meat to go to use to feed the hungry? Is it any different than organ donation?

In the end, Mr. Singer keeps to his ethics very closely. While I, more conservative than liberal do not agree with many of his points, I do respect that he acts upon his beliefs.

You BASTARD. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634719)

If your family can't cope with their retarded children, they can surrender their parental rights and institutionalize them. Personally, I would say that having you in the family is probably the greater burden.

(Oh, and BTW: I have a cousin who is autistic. I'd rather have him remain alive, than all the NAZI pukes who ever advocated killing him.)

If you think retared people should be murdered, what about sociopaths like you and Dr. Singer? One of your ilk, and his henchmen, killed ten million non-combatants in the 30's and 40's.

Maybe it's time for *you* to stick the barrel of a shotgun in your mouth, and take one for the team.


Wider issues (1)

oh (68589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634905)

There realy shouldn't be any replies to this. Everyone will have a different set of answers to this, so don't bother posting them.

Before you can consider the killing (and I use that word because because euphemisms will only hinder this debate) of other people, we should first form out own opinions on euthanasia and suicide.

Ask youself, if you were in a position that you would never enjoy life again, would you go on, or would you want to end it? Not just terminal cancer and the like, but if you were injured in the wilderness with no hope of rescue, what would you do?

What would you do if a close friend or relative was in a similar position? would you help them if they decided to kill them selves?

What is the difference between suicide and euthanasia? When is someout not justified in killing themselves?

these questions need to be asked before you can ask the questions posed in the article.

Nothing New (3)

bigdaisy (30400) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634908)

Singer has been advocating this for years, it's hardly breaking news. (See his book Practical Ethics, for example.)

What if Hawking was euthanized? (2)

miracles (93948) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634912)

If Stephen Hawking was euthanized as a child (granted he wasn't born with his illness... not in it's worst stages) the scientific community would not have the insight into the universe that his genius has given us.
Luckily he was born relatively normal.

Parents should consider long and hard if the only reason they are going to euthanize a child is because they feel that the child may be physically maladjusted for our society. There is no reason to assume that the child, were it "normal", would even want to live in today's norms, maybe it would want to be a recluse....
basically the parents are deciding if THEY want to deal with the burden of raising a child who will not coincide peacefully with our society.
In this case, if doctors were to be able to figure out a fetus' social opinions or orientation, would the parents have the right to euthanize the child if he were not to become what they desired, or if he were to become a recluse?

S.Hawking, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1634915)

Guess we shoulda nipped him in the bud, huh?

Yes, its that shocking thought we all have at one point...usually when we're about 10yrs old..

From the country that brought us Internet censors (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634919)

Peter Singer is also featured in the "That's Outrageous" column of the October 1999 issue of Reader's Digest.

Now, certainly the fact that Peter Singer is Australian does not mean that ALL (or even ANY) Aussies agree with him, but I find it interesting considering Austrailia's recent decision to enforce mandatory Internet censorship.

Some interesting questions....

Who gets to decide the official measure of a "defect"? Heart problems? Deformed limbs? Nearsighted eyes?

Doesn't it assume that the condition (which cannot be treated today) will not be solved by the time it affects the life of the infant? Back in the early 1990's, this principle could have been used to "eliminate" AIDS but, whoops, there are drugs now that can slow the disease down to a crawl.

Why does it matter in societies that legalize abortion? Are we saying that women can eliminate a baby from the population because "it's not the right time, it would affect my career" but not "I don't want to raise a mentally retarded child"? This means that parents must pretty much play deft and dumb when it comes to the progress of their developing child, less if they decide to have an abortion, they be accused of this form of euthanasia.

Facts are...I believe that while science can make general predictions, there are no absolute facts. The movie Gattaca makes this very point. No one can measure the potential of a child or account for future advancements of science.

But then again...this issue is really more about the subject of abortion (the killing of any developing child) than about euthanasia (the killing of a selected "misfortunate" child).

Just my OPINION...please treat it as such.

- JoeShmoe

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Not Right for Slashdot (1)

tomreagan (24487) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634924)

I really don't think that this belongs here. Call me offtopic, blame me for ducking the question, but I'm here for tech news, tech thoughts, and a little bit of fun along the way. Not that other stuff doesn't creep in, but mostly we steer clear of stuff like this.

I remember a few years ago when sengan posted an article alleging that the US bombings of Iraq were an illegal event [] , and that touched off a huge firestorm. I can't imagine the flamewars here on this one.

Please, lets not make the flaming any worse than it already is!

Shades of grey (1)

Leon (28666) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634930)

The question really is who gets to decide what constitutes a disabled baby, and should they get that right? Is for instance blindness enough to disqualify a child, or what about 10%, or 50% healthy vision?

almost faced this myself (2)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634932)

Whan my wife was pregnant with our son (second child), her waters broke at just shy of 26 weeks and he was expected to be delivered shortly. My wife and I were discussing that if he did arrive early, should we allow him to die on his own if that was the way it was going to be (ie, minimal intervention) so that he wouldn't later in life suffer from any disabilities caused by his premature birth. Fortunatly, he held in there (with only bed rest, steroids (for his lungs, just in case) and lots of antibiotics (to prevent infection from the torn sack)) and wasn't born until 4 days before his due date (the sack closed up again). Mind you, he came out backwards, with a knot in his cord (which broke as the doctor was trying to extricate the placenta), and was rather blue (due to the knot), but only needed 6 hours of O2. He's been basicly fine since; if he suffered any brain damage, I'ld hate to see what he would have been like without it. He's a real terror @ 4 :), real geek material.

Peter Singer -- Hypocrite ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1634937)

There was an article in an australian newspaper the other day about peter singer (he is an australian). The article discussed how on one hand he advocated euthenasing the elderly who suck valuable dollars from international health budgets, but on the other hand, with his mother who is quite affected with Alzheimers disease he has recently travelled back to australia to put her in a top-notch nursing home ($$$) -- when questioned, he replied "what can i say - she is my mother"
response []

But Seriously... (4)

The Big D (26921) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634939)

This is an interesting field. People on both sides of the debate are often fueled by religious influences - and/or through knowing people with physical or mental handicaps.

I know a couple of people who were born with partial limbs due to thalidomide (sp?). When the big thalidomide scare was in progress, parents with "malformed" foetuses were often advised to have them aborted (by doctors). They were told that the children would have no quality of life and it was kinder to kill them at that stage.

Well, the two peeps I know are now in their 20s and very happy and successful.

Friends who have worked with the handicapped tell me that despite being restricted by communication abilities or learning difficulties, most people seem very happy.

It is too easy to think to ourselves, "Gosh, if I lost the use of my eyes I would rather die than go on like that."
A fair question does arise as to how reasonable it is to transpose those feelings onto someone else.

On the other hand, anyone who has seen/heard One by Metallica may well be able to understand this professor's attitude to the matter.

I think that the main difficulty in legislating for euthanasia is in control...what will count as severely disabled?...who should decide?...Are the parents' feelings of difficulty in coping with the child overriding the rights of the child who, with appropriate assistance, may well be very happy in life?

I'm not pro-life but do feel that there are serious questions that are difficult to cope with as regards the law.

In the Republic of Ireland, abortion is illegal. However, if a judge permits it, a pregnant woman may travel to another country for an abortion.
If the US were to introduce pro-euthansia legislation, how would it cope with parents from other countries bringing their children over to have them euthanised?

Many, many questions all round.

Re:Human Life, Sentience, and What is a Person (1)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634953)

You could get off relatively unharmed for killing the dog, but killing a three month old baby would surely get you a long prison sentence.

I suppose it depends on where you live, but...have you taking a look at the recent animal rights statutes in most areas? In some cases, crimes against animals are just as severe or even MORE severe than those against humans.

For example, a man in Los Angeles, CA threw a brick at a dog that was tipping over his trash cans. It was witness by several people and the man was arrested for animal cruelty.

The very same month, a man threw a brick at a truck driver who was pulled from the cab by an accomplice. The event was carried on live TV and thousands of people witnessed the event.

The result? The man who threw the brick at the dog was sentanced to three to five years in prison and the man who threw the brick at the truck driver was ultimately given probation.

Now, of course...killing an infant is going to be considered "special circumstances" and is likely to land you serious jail time's a bad idea to assume that laws are written in ways that make sense to you.

- JoeShmoe

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A question of timing... (2)

DanMcS (68838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634957)

Up until not too long ago, people _could_ "euthanize" babies right after they were born (or during birth). Even healthy ones. It was called partial birth abortion. I know some places have banned this, but I'm not even sure that all states in the US have done so, much less the state of the world. Some (but not all) abortion-rights people supported the mother's right to do this. I think it would be interesting to see where they come down on this issue, too.

Would he be received differently, if he advocated early amniocentisis and other tests to determine disability, and then abortion of those babies?

Please note, I have tried to leave my views on abortion out of the above paragraph, they are not relevant to my point here.

My point is that the man's job is to incite debate on bioethical issues, at least in the class he teaches. This is the most important duty of academics, and universities in general. We go to school to expand our horizons, to learn things that might never be useful in a specific sense, except that they teach us to think critically. If I was just going to school to learn programming and networking, I would be done now, but I have 2 more good years of it, and I look forward to having a teacher as colorful as this gentleman. I doubt I will, because OSU is a public school, and more subject to the whims of popular opinion, and that is a shame. Disagree with the man if you wish (I do), but he would be lax in his job if he did not say what he believed. I will be severely disappointed if Princeton bows to public pressure and censures or fires the man.

Re:Please keep this in mind... (1)

ai731 (36146) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634961)

Do we start to intervene in natural selection with a species refinement process. That's what this boils down to.

We've been intervening in natural selection since the advent of modern medicine. Since before modern medicine, actually, from the first Cesarian-section...

Seat-belt laws and motorcycle helmet laws, and warning lables telling you not to drink bleach are intervening in "natural selection".

In part this issue only comes up becuase we've created it. Pre-natal screening and feotal heart monitors let us know that a baby is in distress, we rush in and preform an emergency C-section, put the infant in a neo-natal intensive care unit, and then begins the agony over questions of "quality of life".

Maybe we should start to think about these things before we roll the medical machinery into gear in the first place? How often do we take "doing everything humanly possible" too far? How come cancer and AIDS patients have councelling about how to make DNR decisions; but people are scandalised when we talk about giving parents the right to make similar decisions...



Food for thought... (2)

Section9 (98240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634964)

All those that are proponents of a Pro-Life, no euthansia, movements should especially take a look at this post.

This professor proposes that we kill our defective offspring to ease their suffering. Has the audience ever heard of infanticide? This is a naturally occuring side-effect of those suffering from post-pardum depression. They view their children as defective, and therefore attempt to eliminate them.

This fits right into the 'survial of the fittest' theory. Parents sub-consiously wish to produce the strongest offspring (physically and mentally).

This is noted in Darwin's work. Why should we resist the natural processes of life? The pro-life and religious right would say that to terminate the pregnancy, or let the child die, might deprive the human race of the next Einstein or Hawking. I will tell you this: There will be no anasyphallic genuis, there will be no quadriplegic who can be self-reliant.

So I ask you all this question:

Could you, in good conscience, knowingly bring a severly disabled child into this world? And if so, would you not feel the least bit guilty?

By bestowing a life long burden on the taxpayers to support a child that should have been naturally un-selected, we are in essence creating a life where there should never have been one.

Evoloution (1)

Psiren (6145) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634968)

The problems we face have a lot to do with the fact that we have evolved into intelligent free-thinking individuals. If a wild animal were born severely handicapped, it would die, either through neglect/starvation or by becoming prey to another animal. But because we place so much emphasis on ethics and moral rights (as we rightly should) we have a whole mess of problems to deal with. The higher up the food chain, the more responisbility you have. We're at the top, unfortunately for the rest of life on this planet, we ain't doing a very good job.

real question (1)

ro (6512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634973)

I think the real question here is not whether it is right to kill someone in order to stop their suffering (god knows there have been enough debates on that subject) but whether or not this is actually euthanasia.

Not being disabled myself, I cannot say if "severely disabled infants" are doomed to a life of suffering. I must admit to feeling that everyone should be given the chance to make what they can of their life - with the help of their community of course.

People with severe disabilities *do* need more help to travel through their lives but who can say that if they are given this help their life will be one of suffering. Many people have created something wonderful despite severe disabilities.
We need to put more effort into giving help to those people that need it so the question of whether disabilities leed to lifelong suffering no longer needs to be asked.

(DOH, I was going to agree with Singer's ideas, but as soon as I started writing this I changed my mind and started to ramble!)

What means "handicapped"? (1)

Ventilator (35143) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634975)

What is a handicap?
Do you think it's legitimate (sp?) to kill a baby just because it's blind or deaf. Or even just because it can only see with one eye? I guess there are a lot of people out there that are deaf, visually impaired or otherwise handicapped. Most of them master life quite ok if not even better than "health" people.

Just think: This is the first step. Next comes you are allowed to kill people that get handicapped during an accident or some sort of sickness.
Then come the color-blind, the obese... anything beyond "normality". Do we really want that?

Maybe I'm exagerating. Just my opinion.

Hitler tried the same and thank god, he was stopped!

If you want to kill anything that is handicapped and doesn't work as it was meant to be, then get rid off that buggy piece of software now!

Re:Thank you Thomas Swift (1)

redhog (15207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634977)

It's all a question of what an individual (animal or human, that is) messures highest; life or the lack of pain. Is a painfull life a real life? I would say so. But that stands for myself. Everybody hast to decide for his/her own. And the child can not tell us what it wants. Therefore, just to let the child answer the question for itself later on: Do not let lazy parents kill their "bothersome" children.

And a cynical point to Swifts sarcastic story: Thta would be impossible today, while humans are the highest animal in the foodchain (mostly, but vegeterians do not suffer from this), and are therefore filled with heavy mettals and other environmental poisons.

How handicapped is `severely handicapped'? (1)

niven (89513) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634980)

Some random thoughts:

1. Who could and who should decide when to end a childs life?

I think the parents should decide, since their emotional investment is greatest. However, how could they do this? Extensive testing will not come up with something like "This child has a 68% chance of a `worthwhile' life" (nor should it). Would it be even possible?
I think most handicapped people would definately say their life was worthwile, should they decide? In some committee perhaps?

2. Might this actually happen someday, will we start 'giving involuntary euthanesia' to children who might become criminals or something else 'undesired' (aka killing them)?

Just let them grow up, they'll probably be okay. After all, they can always ask for assisted suicide later.

Well, this will get me flamed, but... (2)

E29 (32830) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634981)

...somebody has to take the other side so I'll sacrifice myself (for the greater good of the discussion).

I would say there could be very good arguments in support of this concept. Children born severly disabled are very likely to either die very young after much suffering or require extensive and expensive care though the entirety of thier lives. The most severly disabled will not be able to contribute to society and instead become dead weights consuming resources that could be put to other use. The most severly disabled will most likely encounter a great deal of suffering; not just physical, but mental as well. So, in all practicality exactly what purpose does letting the severly dissbled live serve.

Now the theological aspects of this are a whole different and very complex argument and I'm not going to delve into that, but other than those reasons based on religion or morality (typically derived from religion) there are no reasons not to do this.

Now, before you fire your flame thrower let me just say, I'm not disabled (other than slight shortsightedness). Neither am I a parent (as far as I know ;). So I'll be the first to admit I haven't the slightest personal insight in this issue. But hey, that's why it's in a disscussion. So if you think I'm moraly corrupt please feel free to enlightenment me and other /.'ers with your insight.

Also, I never said I personaly adgree with this, I'm only saying that it makes logical sense and seems practical.


P.S. I'm really glad such an interesting and contravesal topic got post (even if it wasn't really news for nerds). It is a great mental exercise and should allow us to step away from our petty computer issue and discuss a really meaningfull issue. I hope that we will all leave this thread somewhat enlightened.

Right to DIE. (2)

solios (53048) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634993)

Well, we don't have any choice in the life thing. It is, as another Slashdoter put, a 100% fatal STD. So who would deny that a life of suffering is preferable? One of the few things I value is my mind- if I had Alzheimers, I would be VERY disappointed in anyone who stood in the way of me taking my own life. Everyone says "It's your life. Do what you will." UNTIL it comes to ending it. Excuse me people, but since I got out and figured out what death was, it's been MY decision to keep waking up, and I would very much like it to be my decision to STOP waking up. This is a basic right that I think many, many people are being denied.

If a disability is acquired later in life, then it should be the choice of that person to end his/her life if that person so desires. I don't see the state or some pro-life idiot paying my medical bills, so if I reproduce, and that reproduction is severely flawed and would be better off dead, then so be it. If the state or anyone else wants to pay my bills and medical insurance, THEN I will seriously consider what they have to say when they get all huffy about the "sanctity of life". If they do not have a part in it, then they do not have a right to interfere in it- it's a simple equation that is older than our present "civilization". And something the uptights cannot understand, for some reason. Figure that one out, and cold fusion isn't far behind.

A different angle (1)

kaphka (50736) | more than 14 years ago | (#1634997)

I can see where this discussion is going, and I'd like to contribute one thought before it gets crowded. I'll try to be brief, since I have class in five hours and I've yet to sleep...

A lot of folks, here and elsewhere, have been comparing the "intelligence" of human infants, or fetuses (not that I want to open that can of worms,) to the "intelligence" of other animals. They reason that since some animals are as intelligent as some humans, either those animals deserve more rights and protection, or those humans deserve less.

You've been watching too much "Star Trek". On "Star Trek", they neatly separate every species into a "sentient" category or a "non-sentient" category, and thereby decide whether it's morally okay to eat them. Science fiction has always reasoned that since we have a moral obligation towards our fellow man, we are equally obligated towards anyone who thinks like a human.

Here's my proposal: We have a moral obligation to protect humans not because they are "intelligent", or "sentient", or "conscious", but rather because they are human. Therefore, we will always be bound to protect any organism that is genetically human, even if said creature is less self-aware than the chicken that supplied my dinner tonight.

I apologize if this isn't all that coherent. (I don't know if I'll have the nerve to re-read it later today.) I just wanted to get the idea out there.

Opening Pandora's Box (1)

tonywong (96839) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635001)

I think that once you start down that slippery slope, you'll find it hard to reverse it. What is the definition of severely handicapped? In two more centuries we may view handicapped individuals as less than perfect, genetic aberrations who need to be fixed or culled. Society itself may start opening up this practice in order to achieve two goals, neither wholly altruistic. 1) Organ recycling/Lab research. 2) Lowering apparent social cost. While both may not apparently affect the parents of afflicted children directly. Who's to say that some rich person or group would not offer money for healthy organs and tissues to those parents?

Re:Food for thought... (3)

Blade (1720) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635003)

Isn't the issue with that, "where do we draw the line".

Ooops, wrong colour hair guys, get me the gas.

Ok, so that's an extreme view, but it helps to illustrate my point - with 6 billion people in the world, everyone's going to have a different opinion about what constitutes 'fit to live'.

The other point of course is that right up until the point of death, you have no real idea what your potential is, you might, at that last dying moment have an insight which has far-reaching effects.

You can *not* manage life on a 'return on investment' basis. IMO.

You have killed Beethoven (1)

Pseudonymus Bosch (3479) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635009)

Can somebody post that piece of office folklore that goes "Would you abort a foetus that will suffer deafness, and such and will be born in such a horrible family [...]" and ends "You have killed Beethoven."

Is it historically true?

Ethics (4)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635012)

Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject. Some of them may be contradictory (in case the fact doesn't come through in these musings, btw, I disagree with him).

1. Citing individual cases as reasons why it's a bad idea is usually, well, a bad idea. For every Stephen Hawking there is probably someone made radical contributions to humanity which would not have happened had they devoted their time to maintaining their disabled child. A similar argument, which I've seen on several occasions, is the guy who would have died in a car crash had he been wearing a seatbelt.

2. As a species on this planet, we're genetically encoded to react against anything that endangers the next generation (and I don't mean the borg). This is why all those ridiculous "for the children" pleas are so effective. And no matter what your feelings on the subject, you'll have to agree that this is no longer necessary for the perpetuation of the human race.

3. Ethical is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Eugenics of the sort espoused by Singer, in a fascistic darwinian sort of way, contribute to the future viability of the species. However, see point two.

4. Points two and three above refer only to the continuation of the species, and ignore what could happen should indiviual human life become devalued through practices such as abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. This isn't my view, but it's one I'm willing to listen to with an open mind.

5. All laws and ethical systems are for the good of most members of society. This tyrrany of democracy inevitably has adverse consequences for the minority. Attitudes to those minorities decide whether this is viewed as a good or bad thing.

6. I'm an athiest, but that doesn't mean I can't steal the good bits from various holy books for my own philosophy. As far as I'm concerned, all philosophies that don't involve killing everyone else boil down to 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.

Playing God? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635015)

Both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

On one side: a baby which needs constant medication to not cry all day because of unbearable pain and has only 5% the active neurons of a normal baby. There simply *are* situations where 'no action' is simply the wrong thing to do, ethically. The rule is not 'do not kill'. The rule is 'dont let others suffer'.

On the other side: what if they were wrong about an illness and it turns out to be curable in a few months? Well, what if a murderer turns out to be innocent, after he has been executed?

A society that allows the Death Penalty has to allow Euthanasia as well. If you want to play God, then do it consistently!

Re:What if Hawking was euthanized? (2)

Section9 (98240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635016)

...basically the parents are deciding if THEY want to deal with the burden of raising a child who will not coincide peacefully with our society.

That's all well and good until you realize that the cost of rasing a seriously disabled child are great. This often leaves the parents destitute. Sooner or later the state has to interviene on their behalf, in the form of welfare/disabilty/medicare. So ultimately the parents are making the decision for ALLof us.

In this case, if doctors were to be able to figure out a fetus' social opinions or orientation, would the parents have the right to euthanize the child if he were not to become what they desired, or if he were to become a recluse?

This reminds me of the Orson Welles movie where they try to prevent Hitler from being born... Who is to say that this isn't a good idea.


Watch out, once we start pre-screening our children, we are on a slippery slope to an Orwellian world. (1984, Gattica).

Hard questions don't have just one answer (3)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635019)

As noted, this topic is sensitive and people's views are going to offend each other. This is where it's very important that we remember that different thoughts are to be encouraged even when the actions they contemplate may be reprehensible to us. Exposing some values that lead people to end up on the different sides of this issue may be helpful.

Some people deeply believe that is wrong for a full adult in irremediable acute pain to decide to end their own life.

Others may be deeply empathetic with the pain they imagine in a seriously handicapped child, and think it mercy to kill the child instead.

Another group will think that this kind of euthansia will benefit society, and rather coldly decide it is a good idea for that reason.

I find all three views expressed above at least uncomfortable. I don't wish to assign a value of "true" to any one. I think you have to look at each individual case, weigh the options carefully, and make a hard decision, knowing you could be wrong. What I am sure of, personally, is that I don't want the government mandating the "one true" practice. I think the choice needs to be made at a much more local level -- between the family concerned, and their doctor, with legal advice. My pro-choice bias undoubtedly shows here, and I realize this will be no less controversial than abortion.

Note we've already had to deal with this problem in the form of acephalic babies. IIRC, It's been decided that they are braindead, and their life support may be legally terminated currently.

So it may be that the question isn't whether it is ever acceptable, but rather under which circumstances, and for what reasons. Decision where there is no obvious right or wrong should be made at the family level, with government supplying reasonable guidelines for that choice.

Re:Euthanizing (1)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635022)

No, it's etymologically right. "Euthanasia" (literally "good killing") does not carry an implication of "voluntary" -- and it's usually qualified when used to describe voluntary assisted suicide.

Common supposition though.


How does he messure life? (1)

redhog (15207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635042)

In some way, he has to messure the quality of life, or in fact, a future possible life. Where is the line? When does a life become unworthy to live?

One possible messure is how good an individual is for man kind. That was what the nazists tried to do in germany...

Another possible messure is pain. But could he, or anyone else, except the baby, who could possibly not answer the question, certainly messure if the pain is to high to make the life worthy of living?

Yet another messure would be the problems for the parents. So if you cause me problems, I'l kill you. SOunds to me like just any murderer reasoning....

Re:Thank you Thomas Swift (2)

Stephen (20676) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635045)

It's Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels), not Thomas. The text can be read here [] and here [] and here [] (probably more).

Swift argues that babies could be a delicacy for the upper classes, and a source of revenue, instead of a resource drain, on the working classes. Sounds morbid, but it's quite amusingly done too.

And it is relevant to this debate. Swift too was trying to argue against contemporary attitudes which counted certain people as worthless, although in his case it was the poor rather than the disabled.

You can read a short introduction to the proposal here [] .

All about values... (1)

flamingdog (16938) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635051)

I can imagine this will stir up more histeria than expected. I read a very interesting book, called "The Secular City" by Harvey Cox. I recommend it to anyone with an IQ over 37. Here is an interesting quote from the book, that is slightly relative to this story:

"The relativization of values does not have to lead to either individual or group solipsism. It can have a much more constructive result, the recognition that since everyone's perspective is limited and conditioned, no one has the right to inflict his values on anyone else. In political terms, a certain degree of healthy relativism provides the philosophical basis for pluralism."

In other words, Harvey Cox said unto the world, your values are not everyone elses, dont force them on me. I am pro-choice, and tend to have an open mind about things like this, its very healthy to take others perspectives into account.

"I'm not gonna say anything inspirational, I'm just gonna fucking swear a lot"

Re:The laws of nature? (1)

mcgiver34 (14339) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635053)

I agree, lets keep it in context. "severly disabled" means to me that the child would never walk, think or be concious of even being alive, I dont believe he is refering to the blind or any other managable disabilities. Our medical technology is a double edged sword, while on the one hand we can detect and accuratley detect many of these types of defects at birth we also possess the capability to preserve that life at all costs with no hope of a cure. The ultimate moral question will always be "who makes the cut?" I believe that thanks to our beloved beowulf clusters genetic technology will advance to the point that from a DNA sample from an unborn infant we will be able to tell such details as when he will lose his hair, whether or not and at what age he will develop heart disease, diabetes etc., I understand that this was tough to post here on slashdot, I agree that it was a good idea, many of the smartest people in the world read and post here and the media (established) is starting to pay attention, about time, be heard.

Tell the people at Princeton (1)

DanMcS (68838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635057)

Singer is a professor in the Center for Human Values. Here is some contact info.

These gleaned from taff.htm []
and st00.pdf []

Now, I don't think they would publish their email addresses if they didn't expect feedback, and I'm sure they've gotten some on this, but they probably aren't expecting a slashdot. Be polite, no matter your views. These people are academics, professors and administrators by training, they will simply ignore you if you are rude.

Re:Not Right for Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635060)

Yes, let's all settle back, relax, and pretend that there are no problems in the world and no need to tax our minds thinking about anything except how kewl some new Linux feature is. After all, when Linux beats Microsoft, Utopia will have been achieved. Mind you, is this "News for Nerds" or just "News". Maybe there should be an option to post news of general interest on Slashdot that precludes comment but that refers Slashdotters to discussion forums on other sites so that those who are interested may still have their say.

The meaning of life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635063)

Do we want humans that are good at sorting out the best specimens or do we want people that are good at fixing the natures bugs ?

What is the meaning of life anyway ?

What about if we could stop the suffering of millions by killing the guys that forces them to use lousy software ?

Just another point of view (1)

santeri (91589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635066)

This is not a flamebait, just another point of view.

The whole concept of overdue abortion is not so unique idea as it might sound. The only viable solution left to protect the environment seems to be getting rid of some (or most) of the undue load. That meaning humans. In contrast to the thought of euthanazing people based on disabilities, it might be more productive to do the selection based of statistics instead. Ie. 95% of the human population should be a good start, preferring citizens of highly civilized countries, as they tend to consume more (oh yes, yours truly included). Unless, of course, someone comes up with a more appropriate critearia (like, say, the use of OO-methods to recycle the code...?).

See also some interesting references [] related to the topic.


Yes ! the technology is giving us too much choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635068)

The modern medicine is giving us more and more opportunities to decide on the destiny of our child: now we can detect the sex and some mental illnesses before the birth (which is already a BIG issue in some countries). Maybe one day we could even detect the Linux, MS or the -whatever- gene.... I consider that parents who know that know their child is handicapped and decide to keep him anyway are crazy but I'm also sure that people like Singer are wrong and dangerously mad. I don't know what is the right decision, I don't think there is one. All I know is that I don't want to hear anything about the sex or the possible illnesses of my future child because in this particular situation knowledge is negative.

i hope i dont get flamed for this (1)

Ater (87170) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635072)

I don't want to seem like a soulless monster, which is what professor Singer has been stigmatized as, but the I do feel the man has somewhat of a point.

First of all, I would like to state that I disagree with waiting until months after the birth to perform the "act", but I think it should be considered from the prenatal stage to recently after the birth. Since modern medical technology has enabled people to forsee the physical status of the baby in fetus form, potential serious disabilities should be fairly detctable. In such a case the doctor could make a detailed note of this to the expecting parents, and the option of abortion could be raised, or closer monitoring of the fetus could be done to see what actions could be taken.

I know this may sound inhumane, but I'm sure the severly disabled aren't exactly living in a state of bliss. Yes there are many disabled people who do manage to somewhat overcome their situation and live relatively normal lives. However, I'm sure that there as many if not more disabled individuals who are unhappy and miserable because of their situation. As a sidenote I would like to say that the decision depends on what is labelled as severly disabled (obviously 'too light' or 'imperfect skin' and such minor issues shouldnt be listed, only EXTREME CASES OF DISABILITY).

Since I have no experience with disability, I will admit that I don't have much of a place saying that euthinasia will benefit the disabled themselves, but then there are the utilitarian reasons for it. First of all the parents have to be considered in the affair. Yes, the majority of such are readily willing to take whatever action needed out of obligatory parental and familial love, but without a doubt it places them in a highly stressful, expensive, and to some extent miserable situation to have to devote their own lives to taking care of a single disbaled person. It can be especially problematic in households with multiple children, where the 'healthy' ones are neglected because of demands of the disabled child, or where there are multiple disabled children that require more care.

Also there are the sheer medical costs that are required to care for an extremely handicapped person. Although parents should be able to care for the child if they can afford to, most such parents aren't so well off, and thus the costs necessary for care are sent to insurance or the governemnts health care program, and as a result the average American citizen. I don't have anything personal against disabled people, but it is outrageous that a fair share taxes I pay should be used by the government to subsidize the exhorbant medical costs of someone who cannot pay for them by themselves. I don't mind giving charity, but tax money should not be diverted towards such a resultless cause. The benefit of the average person outweighs the need of a single lesser individual. In effect, such programs disrupt natural selection, where those incapable of independant survival are weeded out by failure to fend for oneself. Instead, the capable are being brought down by the needs of the disabled. Lastly, promoting the disabled population will ultimately lead to a continued abundance of highly disabled indivuals, as their genes will be passed on down, thus creating future struggles with disability as well.

Lastly I would like to adress the moral issue. As I stated above, I do DISAGREE with killing after an extended period after birth. The decision for euthinasia should be researched, contemplated (and hopefully finalized)before the birth process occurs. And despite what we think, fetuses are not fully sentient beings like developed human beings. Who among us can recall memories from the fetus stage, or even the early stages of infancy? The fetus or infant may be human physically, but nearly in terms of mental capacity. Thus I think it's fair to label it as a lesser version of a human during this transitory period.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I don't strongly advocate Mr. Singer's proposal, but I do feel that the option perhaps be looked into instead of being instantly labelled as murderous evil. Though it may seem cruel, the plan does have potential benefits to the masses, which is the general goal of the majority of such proposals. Perhaps if a clear line on what constitutes severe disability were drawn, and the decisions were backed by months of prenatal research, the plan could be a decent idea.

And before I close, I would like to ask that I not be flamed. It is my opinion on the issue, and you have every right to strongly disagree with me. But when people resort to heavy personal attacks because the way an individual thinks, as is being done to Mr. Singer, they commit just as great a crime as what they are convicting him of.


How does your dog tell you then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635091)

It cant, but your still put the dog to sleep. A very tricky subject indeed. Brad

The parasite. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635097)

Someone who is truly disabled to me would not have the ability to take care of them self at age 18. If the child has a fighting chance they should get that chance. Morally speaking of course. Remember, abortion is legal in many places. My morals dictate abortion is wrong after the first month. I don't like the idea that it can feel the pain. Most of the methods used involve violent removal. If the concept of reproduction is removed see the fetus matches the description of a parasite. The irony of a disabled fetus is that it will never rise above the parasite. It will remain a drain and source of suffering for the families who raise them.

The world is already over populated as it is. Why add more strains to nature and the economy? Why burden an organism with life when it will be one of agony? I wouldn't want to live if I was severely disabled from birth. The sad thing is that if I was I could never communicate that I wished to be destroyed.

Listen to him: maybe he is saying something (3)

ObsoleteHuman (99166) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635100)

An important question is what good is the life of a terminally demented child. Say, we are talking about infants who have no hope of recovery (with current standards of medicine), and will probably remain dysfunctional for the rest of their lives. These infants cannot think -- we can demonstrate that they do not think by means of any number of tests for neural activity. The question to ask is whether such a life is worth anything to the fuzzy cloud of Humanity. The child certainly would not mind if he were (painlessly) removed -- he would barely know that he was being killed. The parents certainly, in spite of their terrible sorrow, might not want to be burdened by a child that denies them all the pleasures of parenthood. Is the child any better than any other anthropomorphic living dead, for example a brain-dead accident victim? We do not seem to mind the fact that many brain-dead people are unplugged all the time; should we really have a different standard for brain-dead babies?

Of course this classification of "mentally-useless" is a dangerous one. I understand fully well the implications of a mis-classification, even one caused by a lacking in our current state of knowledge.

I am sorry, however, I cannot easily dismiss Singer's viewpoints as entirely invalid.

(Notice that few of us have any ethical problems with purging brain-dead programs like Microsoft's operating systems...)

Cannibalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635102)

Let's drift the topic:

I have nothing ethically against eating human flesh if it has died from natural causes, as they do as a form of respectful "burial" in Papua-New Guinea.

But, from a health perspective, eating people whose health hasn't been strictly controlled can be dangerous. Besides common illnesses, in PNG they had the problem of "kourou" (?), "the laugh illness" (?). It was a nervous system disease caused for eting the brain of your ancestors similar to "mad cow"'s. Bovine Spongiform Disease was caused by cows eating (processed) ewes, remember.

Of course, I prefer fish.

Swift's "Modest Proposal" (and other things) (3)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635103)

Hmmmm ... I think you're blunting the point of Swift's actual satire. His essay was a commentary on the famine in Ireland, and his actual suggestion was that famine could be alleviated by producing children and selling them to be eaten. He in fact suggested that the babies should be considered a delicacy by English landlords in Ireland because they had already (through giving over tracts of farmland to beef) "eaten" the children's parents. Not actually material to your point, but I hate to see a sharp political point ground down into a blunter ethical one.

A few comments, more on-topic:

One person has had a chance to lead a full life while the other has not

I'm not sure we're actually discussing cases where "the chance to lead a full life" is the issue.

Pain tells us that we are alive

I'm reminded of Joseph Heller's views on this from Catch-22 (transcribed from memory, may be wrong)

"God made everything with a purpose", said the nurse. "Even pain has a purpose, to tell us that our bodies are being damaged".

"Bullshit", said Yossarian "If that's all it's for, why does it hurt so much? To tell us that we were being damaged, we could have a set of blue and red neon lights on our foreheads. Any half-competent jukebox designer could have put that together. Why can't God?"

"Well", replied the nurse "People would look pretty silly walking round with red and blue lights sticking out of their heads, wouldn't they"

"And I suppose they look just lovely now writhing around in agony or stuffed full of morphine", snarled Yossarian"

My personal view is that the real mistake here is to try to make general moral rules about these things. I personally feel revulsion at this sentiment; but I wouldn't necessarily presume to tell parents facing this problem what their choice should be. On the other hand, I don't want to say that "anything goes"; there should be some moral statements which are actually true. I guess that a lot would depend on the motives -- I would not like to see disabled children become the victims of infanticide because they were "inconvenient", but would mind less if euthanasia were carried out because the parents simply couldn't cope. There is a distinction there.

Of course, perhaps the answer is that there is no right thing to do when such an unfortunate child is born. Perhaps either decision is very badly morally wrong. I'm not aware of any obligation on the universe to always provide us with a "right thing to do" -- perhaps genuine "moral tragedies" can exist.

Thank heavens that the immediate question -- that of academic freedom -- is much more clear cut. I refer all present to Mill's On Liberty, which says all that needs to be said on this.


Re:You have killed Beethoven (1)

Kidbro (80868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635106)

Beethoven was not born deaf. He composed most of his work while still hearing. I'm not entirely sure about this, but I believe that among his really famous stuff, it's only the 9:th that was composed while he was deaf. Not really an answer to your question though...

Re:Response: (2)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635108)

I don't think that the above is really flamebait, and I regretfully suggest that any and all negative moderation points will be needed for the real hardcore unpleasantness that I suspect this topic will launch.


Consciousness and Ethics (1)

Kazparr (24651) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635110)

The destruction of very young babies (and not just handicapped ones as suggested) is one Gedankenexperiment among many in Singer's wider interest in the cognitive science and the issues it raises. He investigates how our moral principles consistent with our modern scientific knowledge.

For example, Singer was involved in starting the Great Ape project [] , which advocates equal rights for primates, the same moral and legal rights as humans. (Rights but not obligations, in the same way that young children and the mentally ill are absolved of certain responsibilities.)

This fact suggests a rather different 'spin' on the quote than /. suggests. It does seem, to me at least, to be inconsistent to believe that apes should be protected and respected, but not so children.

Not the sort of mistake a Princeton professor would make.

On the other hand sparking debate through controversy is no bad thing.

Slashdot circa 1933 (?)
Shock horror: Physics professor advocates poisoning of kittens to test nuclear theory.

- Kazparr

Re:Thank you Thomas Swift (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635113)

He is certainly not moral, but to quote S. Hardin in one of Asimov's book "Never let your sense of moral preventing you from doing what is right". Is it right to save a kid a lifelong agony ? Maybe.

Moral consistency (1)

Mart (19570) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635114)

If you start off with the notion that human life is not more valuable than animal life, then you are bound to come to some crazy conclusions. It seems clear, from this brief description, that Singer is trying to build a morally consistent world view based on this rather odd premise. Unfortunately people who aim for total consistency are rather difficult to argue with, unless you have an equally consistent opposing viewpoint, and often frighteningly persuasive. I would say rms is one such person, although I wouldn't say he is as crazy as Singer.

The obvious counter argument to Singer's euthanazia proposal is that you should not eliminate suffering by eliminating the person. Evidently he believes that a one month old baby is not a person, but as the father of a four month old baby I would have to profoundly disagree with him.

The notion of whether or not the infant has rights or not, is however, irrelevant. This is where a lot of the arguments about animal rights miss their point. Let's simplify the argument by talking about animals.

It is possible to believe that it is wrong for humans to cause suffering in animals without according animals "rights". Why? Because it is dehumanizing to cause suffering in another living thing without good cause. The wrong lies not in the fact that the animal suffers (remember, animals hunt, kill and eat each other every day) but in the fact that you as a person are diminished by such an act, and more broadly so is the society you live in. If you accept this principle, then the question posed by Singer is easier to resolve. A society which does not respect its weaker members, which eliminates them out of convenience, is a sick society.

Now, I'm in trouble because, starting from my premise I'm going to come to a rather strange conclusion. If you apply my argument to highly realistic computer simulations of immoral acts (murder, torture, rape) then my argument says that these are also immoral (not _as_ bad obviously, but still quite wrong), and should not be tolerated. This opens up a whole new can of worms about video game censorship, so I'm going to stop here before I start an off-topic flame war.

Re:Please keep this in mind... (1)

Betcour (50623) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635131)

I don't think the problem is about natural selection... the question is about having compassion for the others who suffer very serious pain with no hope of things getting better.

ambiguity. (1)

rabidMacBigot() (33310) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635136)

I really don't know what to think on this issue. My gf's younger brother is microcephalic, ergo, he's ~sixteen but will likely never advance beyond 6 years relative maturity. on one hand:
My gf loves him completely and without pretense. She loves him by the most sincere definition of the word.
His parents, though I'm sure they love him too, are feeling the effects cashwise of supporting him. Can their needs be ignored, can their burden be written off? If so, will those who choose to fight selective euthanasia be held monetarily accountable for his support?

Damn, I don't know. This is definitely the wrong topic to show up on /. six beers into the night.

not sure where he stands,

Re:What happened to America (2)

Bartmoss (16109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635138)

You forget that it's an old idea. The last to try it plunged the world into a long and bloody war. Yes, such ideas are what made Hitler and his minions famous. This professor should be resigned from his position, such suggestions and ideas are highly dangerous.

Besides it'd be a violation of human rights. But who cares about such petty details. Another example of the bigots that make up America these days. Blame China for human rights violations, but when an American professor suggests killing handicapped babies, he gets cheered and it's all covered by free speech and a great thing to be protected and fostered. Bah! I am disgusted.

Is it really a "life of suffering" (1)

Toojays (95709) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635141)

"parents of severely disabled infants should be allowed to kill them painlessly in order to save them from a life of suffering"
I think it would be extremely difficult to say whether or not a severly disabled child is going to have a "life of suffering". A friend of mine who did his community service at a special school once commented to me that for those kids every day was a massive party - they were rarely upset. Admitedly it would be expensive to send children to such a school, so I don't know that it would be the same for low income families to have such a child.

One practical issue with such children is whether or not the child is expected to outlive the parents. If so, what happens to them once the parents die, especially if the children are no longer minors?

Back to my subject, though, when you're born with a disability it's probably much easier to get used to, and when you don't have to worry about the difficulties of "normal life" things might be more fun. Basically it comes down to money - if the parents are rich enough to keep the child in comfort and don't have to worry about what he's costing them (and the state), then killing the child most likely won't be an issue, and the child most likely wont live a life of suffering. On the other hand, if the family is poor and the child will be a financial and emotional burden its life may well be one of suffering, and so the arguement for killing it is strong.

Kinder to euthanise? Not at all (1)

gargle (97883) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635143)

The problem with the argument that it's kinder to euthanise a disabled child is this: if the child really felt that he would be better off dead than alive, he could very well kill himself later on.

Sounds absurd doesn't it? Then it's ridiculous to think that you're doing a disabled child a favor by killing him -- after all, even the most severely disabled people show a fierce desire to live.

Re:Food for thought... (1)

Bartmoss (16109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635147)

Survival of the fittest? Yeah, right! What next? Bring us back to 1940s ideologies? The Nazis thought Jews were not fit to live. Or the racists in America, who think blacks are not worth to live, because they must be inferior?

Why did everybody make such a fuss about that, then? Who are you to tell them they're wrong? Afterall, the fit killing those who are weak is an OK thing in your very own words: "Why should we resist the natural processes of life?"

But you show your true attitude at the end of the post:

By bestowing a life long burden on the taxpayers to support a child that should have been naturally un-selected, we are in essence creating a life where there should never have been one.

Basically what you say is that children should be killed because they cost the taxpayer money. This is probably the most disgusting attitude a human being can have. You should be ashamed of yourself. I can't even come up with a good term to describe you. You disgust me.

Do you at least realize how fscking dangerous such ideas are?

Sometimes when I read posts like this I am glad Hitler was not born in America - Many people over there probably still would cheer him as a hero.

Dubitable metric (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635149)

If the value of life was to be measured in how painless you could get to the end of it, then it would probably be best to kill off everyone on birth. Much suffering would be avoided that way, and in a hundred years or so would cease altogether. Many of the more important works in art and literature have been the result of experienced pain and suffering. It is quite often the painful life that shows its preciousness and makes its worth felt every day. Do we really want to live in the "Brave New World" of Aldous Huxley where we have strictly normalized forms of social interaction, strictly controlled biological levels of health, an effectively senseless life until the death? I find myself unable to demand absolutions for parents that decide they's rather save themselves and others the responsibility and bother, even though I am not in the situation to condemn them. But I consider it wrong to try to establish a social or legal code intended as a substitute for their own conscience.

Condoms (1)

redDevil (83500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635150)

Your argument is moot. Using it one could argue that the use of condoms has prevented the birth of many geniuses (as if those people have more right to live, but that's another point). While this might be true (how can it ever be tested?) should the use of condoms be banned?. I don't think so.

Even if parents decided to kill every odd child (to mention an arbitrary reason) our society probably wouldn't look much different (ethics aside).

Yes... and double yes. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635152)

I have relatives to whom this happened-
they had 2 out of their 4 children born severly
retarted. Of course, there was no way to kill the
child (it was not known beforehand that the
child was damaged) and anyway they didn't believe
in abortion. I have since watched the two parents
slowly be destroyed by their kids (and I only
visit them once a year or so) and have watched the
normal kids get really fucked up. Of course,
everyone in the family goes on about how affectionate
the retarted kids are, and sure, they are, but
they are also horrors. I don't really want to go
into details but I'm sure you can imagine. More
to the point, they have little intelligence to speak
of. One kid, who is now 17, can't count, can't
read, can't reason or perform basic functions. She
is functionally a 1 year old or worse, and to
boot she has a 17 year old's strength and she
is often very angry at the world, for obvious

Now all things being equal, is it better for her
had she been killed at birth? Maybe, maybe not. But
all things aren't equal. She exacts a huge toll
on everyone around her. And also, don't forget
that there was a normal kid who was not born, as
a result of her consuming a certain amount of
family resources. Instead of a year of the trama
of killing an infant, her parents have suffered
nearly two decades of horror, and will continue to
do so forever.

As an aside, the parents are still avid
christians. It never ceases to amaze me
that people will continue to worship a god
who fucks them. (of course, I am an atheist, so
I think their misfortune is just bad luck)

At any rate, I hope this becomes legal, since I know
I'd kill any of my kids who were retarted. It won't,
of course, since the US is filled with weak-minded
xtians. So, I guess I'll be stuck doing weekly
amniocentheses (mispelled) with a hand
on the ripcord.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635154)

I hate to tell you guys this, but many parents are already practicing infanticide to get rid of 'unwanted' (e.g. unaffordable, handicapped, and/or illegitimate) children.

An infant cannot defend itself against an adult. All you have to do is press its mouth against a pillow or blanket and it will die of hypoxia in minutes. And then the coroner rules "SIDS" (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) to get the parents off the hook.

How do I know this? Well, I'd rather not say. But believe me when I say that this is a common occurrence. All Singer is doing is trying to get society at large to stop being hypocritical and admit that this stuff happens. Parents assume the role of God and Grim Reaper over their child for the first 1-2 years of the child's life. To pretend otherwise, is to be ignorant or a hypocrite.

Re:What if Hawking was euthanized? (3)

atamar (2709) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635170)

> If Stephen Hawking was euthanized as a child...

This thinking always strikes me as odd. How many healthy Hawkings have been lost in wars? How many healthy Hawkings never got their chance due to dysfunctional families, sickness, disinterest, poorness?

If you base your protestation on the potential of genius, or, indeed, the potential of any quality at all, you should pine for all the potential that never bloomed, be the loss by accident or by euthanasia. Extending the line of logic, we should demand ending all wars (basis: loss of potential) and redistribution of wealth to third world countries (who knows how many geniuses are lost to malnutrition, disease, insufficient education...). There is nothing wrong (or right) with the demands as such; it's just that basing them on the premise of unknown talent that just might, conceivably, exist or come to exist somewhere isn't a sound argument.

The ethics of terminating the life of a person or a newly born infant is a separate matter, well worth discussion.
Personally, I'm glad to see people think for a change. =)

The whole argument is moot when GE comes of age. (1)

orj (92290) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635175)

Once we have perfected Genetic Engineering the whole concept of birth defects will become something we tell our grandchildren to scare them on Halloween. But then Genetic Engineering is a big 'Ethical' sticking point as well so perhaps we are no better off. Examples of GE gone mad: Star Trek and the Eugenic Wars, Gattaga (written and directed by a Kiwi too! And no I do not mean the fuzzy brown/green fruit!)

Re:What happened to America (2)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635178)

, such suggestions and ideas are highly dangerous.

Suggestions? and Ideas? Are Dangerous?

Suggestions and ideas are dangerous?

No. Whatever else we think, we ought to be able to agree that suggestions and ideas cannot be dangerous, and attempts to suppress them certainly can be. There have been a few people who have tried to sack university professors for advocating controversial views, but I rather suspect that their names are going to be over-used in this discussion, so I won't contribute to wearing them out.

Bill Gates thinks that fragmentation of operating systems is dangerous. Rev. Fred Phelps thinks that tolerating homosexuality is very dangerous indeed. A fair few people think that allowing non-Christians to hold positions of political power is dangerous.

And I don't have much time for arguments to the effect that "sacking Prof. Singer isn't the same as censoring him". If you make it more difficult for one idea to be expressed than another, then you are censoring. And you don't have to be the government to be a censor, either. By far the majority of censorship in the world today is carried out through implicit rather than explicit means, through taboos, selective funding of different sides of an argument and social pressure. And it is ourselves we harm when we allow ideas to gain acceptance based on their palatability rather than their merits.


Re:The laws of nature? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635180)

There is a birth defect where the featus have
the stomach outside of the body, though you
just has to put it back in, the worst thing
that could happen is that the baby strangles
itself in it's intestines.

What if those babies never got a chance but
were sorted out before a medical treatment
became possible?

The advances of medicine is not an argument
against Singer however, the efforts to cure
a child with severe defect could still cost
enough to inflict the same suffering as
taking care of the severed child would.
Where are we to put our limited resources?

Patrik Carlsson

(I'll read his book in a course next month)

Discussion? (1)

redDevil (83500) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635182)

Interesting to see that an ethical matter like this one isn't really discussed by the people here. Lots of posts, hardly any replies.

In our quest to be political correct, we sometimes forget to think for ourselves (or learn from others, for that matter).

The word is "murder." (0)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635187)

We established that at Nuremburg.

You know, I remember reading in Richard Feynman's book, that shortly after he got to princeton, somebody tried to talk him into joining a group of NAZI symathizers.

How old is this particular NAZI puke? Could he be the same one, or does Princeton have an ongoing tradition of avocoating crimes against humanity?


Great idea, if you're a Nazi (1)

MattXVI (82494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635189)

Hitler killed thousands of the people we now call the Handicapped right around the time he began rounding up Jews in large numbers. How disappointing that an American University will give this terribly wrong man, Mr. Singer, a position of respect, and a public forum. I doubt anybody who advocated killing blacks or Jews would get the same consideration from Princeton.

Watch out. React now or... (1)

Reinout (4282) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635191)

In the Netherlands we've got a political party which is (as a product of the late 60's) fond of abortion and euthanesia. They've (not them alone, but...) preached their gospel so ofthen that the legislation is quite liberal at that point at this moment. I'm sure many countries have this problem.

Quite scary, even the medical doctors changed their three thousand year old oath of hypotacres (what was his name?). At least in the Netherlands the phrase "to protect life" has been deleted and changed into something less.

And now, a few weeks ago a secretary of state (minister Borst, for the dutch folks) announced that she thought the age for self-decision about euthanesia could well be dropped from 18 to 12 (for those seriously ill). Great clamour arose, but she was confident those youngsters could make a perfectly good decision. The proposal was officially dropped "because there wasn't enough support". No condemnation or whatever. Sounds a lot like "not yet enough support".

Kind a creepy. Between 12 and 16 you aren't allowed to buy tobacco (special "no excuse will be accepted" stickers popping up all around), but you'll be perfectly capable of deciding about your own death. And they seriously think this...

Once the nazis started gassing mentally ill, they had to stop pretty soon once the germans found out what happened to their family members. Civilization has developed a long way after that...

Ethical, my ass. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635192)

"He believes that we should give everything not absolutely necessary for our own existence to the hungry, starving and dying."

What's "absolutely necessary"? Who's going to decide that? The all-loving, all-powerful Big Brother? What would Mr Singer do to those who (Horrors!) actually feel entitled to the fruits of their own labor?

From the very little bit I've read about this man, he sounds like a thouroughly evil little shit to me.

He's no altruist: He's a classical guilt-tripper pretending to be an altruist, in order to get gullible people to go along with a throughly evil premise: The premise that we are all duty-bound to be slaves to the collective.

If he really believes what he preaches, let him give away everything he owns, including the cothes on his back, just like Saint Francis did. If he did that, I'd still think he was a jackass, but he might not be a hypocrite.



Re:Ethics (2)

JoostT (88174) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635194)


If it costs 3 million dollars to help a severly disabled baby live a decent live and this money can be used to stop 1000 people from starving, what is the moral course of action.

What if the amount is $ 5000.

It seems to me that if you look at the economics of the situation and the position of Singer regarding poverty, it is clear where his position on the killing of severly disabled baby's is coming from.

The way I see the argument is not whether it is moraly just to kill a baby because it is severly disabled, but if it is moral to spend a lot of resources on one severly disabled baby that could be used to stop a lot of people from starving to death.

If you talk about moral positions you should always look at the bottom line. It's the same with abortion. If you are able to provide state support for unwanted children, then you can have the moral luxury to forbid people to abort a child.

But in a situation where the mother cannot feed her other children, it is hypocritical to forbid abortion, knowing the child will starve to death.

The whole debate is a lot more complicated when you are considering the economics of moral issues like this in the whole world and not just in the rich country's.


PS I am not saying that it is moral to klll severly disabled baby in general. What I say is that this question is undecideble, because you are not just deciding about the life of the baby but also about other lives. And I do not know a way to decide what lives are better or even if you can say that saving one life is better than saving many lives.

Re:From the country that brought us Internet censo (2)

forthy (64685) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635207)

> Who gets to decide the official measure of a
> "defect"? Heart problems? Deformed limbs?
> Nearsighted eyes?

IMHO this is quite clear. A severely handicaped child is one that can't live without continuous high-effort medical aid, and even then has a severely reduced live expectation. A hundret years ago, the worst of those childs (after they died) where shown (conserved) in curiousity cabinets as "monsters". Today, we can keep them alive for years.

It's not a matter of evolution* - these poor creatures can't breed anyway. I think it's more a matter of luxury - can you afford it to keep someone alive? Normal childs can be kept alive by giving them to eat and drink, a worm place to sleep, and intellectual challange and social contact to learn.

And since resources are limited, you really should think about the luxury to keep a severely handicapped child alive some years for a million dollars. You could probably spent the money better by donating a $5/child vaczine to the third world and save hundrets, if not thousands of lives.

There are a lot of serious questions with high-tech medicine. Is it ok to lengthen one's live by painful 6 weeks for $100k, which is a typical statistic for some sort of cancer operations, or is that just a lot of money wasted and even denying a death in peace? Or is it ok to give them poison (or illegal drugs) instead so that they can die without pain?

This isn't just about money, it's also about live quality. You can't ask non-concious people, but sometimes, you can ask concious. I once worked in a hospital (instead of military service), and we had a 86 year old woman, who had a very serious disease - she was operated every second day for over a month, and to our all surprise, she actually survived that. Some months later, still bound to bed (with little hope to recover much more), she asked us why we didn't let her die. Sometimes, suffering is worse than death.

*) ordinary, cheap medicine matters to evolution. It keeps people healthy and attractive who aren't really that strong.

I know of one person who is *severly* disabled. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635210)

The asshole who says it's allright to murder anyone he thinks doesn't deserve to live, is severely disabled.

Anyone who can't see the moral difference between a human being and an animal is severly disabled.

If someone is so severly disabled that they want to cash out, that's their own business. Anyone who takes it upon himself to make that decision for anyone else, is a murderer.


Re:What happened to America (1)

Section9 (98240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635214)

Agreed. It's nice to know that someone actually understood my original post. Any form of censorship, even well intentioned censorship "for the children" is dangerous.

Re:Ethics (1)

axolotl (1659) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635215)

The argument about the guy who would have died in a car crash through wearing a seatbelt is flawed, because far more people die through not wearing them than do through wearing them.

People should just do what they really believe to be right. It doesn't really matter whether the baby lives or dies, just as it doesn't really matter if the civilised world blew itself up next week. In a few thousand years the result would be the same anyway. But to lose touch with your instinct for right and wrong in an endless moral dilemma is a real waste of time.
I'm not saying the baby should die, or that it should live --- the only people who can make that decision are the parents. But their decision ought to be the true decision.


His ethics is the most consistent one I've read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1635218)

Peter Singer's ethics is a very consistent system, and I have a lot of respct for that.
I read his Practical Ethics when I took a philosophycourse a few years ago and found that the form of utilitarianism he proposes is one that I can agree on. So I became a vegetarian..

But the consequences of this utilitarianism is open for debate, for example, to impose suffering on animals that feel pain is wrong, but killing an animal that does not have any idea about "life", "future" or has any hopes or plans for the future isn't necessariy wrong. The problem is knowing whether animals do have ideas, and also to hold animals captive without imposing pain or suffering on them. So there are still problems with eating meat, even if the actual killing isn't it.

Now, how different is a human infant to an animal? Do they have plans, ideas, hopes? This is a difficult question. Peter Singer's argument is based on the idea that they are like animals feeling pain but without a mental projection of themselves and thus unable to have an idea of themselves in other future situations, no plan, no hopes. Killing a healthy adult means disrupting these hopes and plans, which is wrong. Killing an infant doesn't invole disrupting these things as they aren't there. And so it isn't wrong in the same sense.

But I'm sure Singer, as I, sees other problems with killing infants. The act of killing an infant does not only have an impact on the infant itself, or the parents, but this practice would have an impact on the society as a whole, that might outweigh the benefits. Also, it is a theory based on vague assumptions (the mental processes of infants). I personally would not argue in favour of actually practicing infanticide, other than to provoke thought. Maybe that is what he is doing?

When I learned about his ethics I personally interpreted him as saying "don't treat humans worse, treat animals better". The difference between us isn't that great.

my first post on /. ever.. and I didn't bother creating an account.. maybe next time :)

- Humm

my Swedish is better than my English ;)

Who decides? (1)

davek (18465) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635220)

Even though subjects like this spill over into such issues as mercy killings and doctor assisted suicide, lets stay on the topic at hand. That is: parents deciding to terminate the life of their child because of a handicap that would make the child's life miserable.

My main problem with this sort of thing (and there are many problems with it) is the question of who decides the fate of the handicapped child? In the issue of doctor assisted suicide, the patient decides whether to let him/her self die. When you're dealing with a child (I'm assuming an infant), it is not them who decides to live or die; it is the parents. As soon as you make it legal to terminate someone's life without their concent, you've started down a slippery slope that leads to No Place Good.

In addition to that, allowing infant genocide (correct term?) would lead to immense corruption with unwanted pregnancies. For example, if an 18 year old got pregnant, chose to have the child, and then 4 months into motherhood realized that it was a lot harder than she thought, she could go to the doctor, bribe him into saying that the child was handicapped in some way, and have the kid, well, basically "put to sleep."



when is it ok? (1)

duckfin (64655) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635221)

Anything that has the ability to choose should have the right to choose. That is to say, you do not make decisions for me(unless I say its ok for you to do so). Euthanizing a child, with this reasoning, is wrong(in most cases).
Thats probably a bit too idealistic for more than a handful of people to swallow.
I assume everyone agrees there are cases that children should be euthanized, and cases where they should not be. The extreme case where most people, i believe, will agree would be an all but brain-dead child being born in some form of coma. Assuming that case belongs to the set of acceptable euthanizable babies, one should try and find the boundary points. Where do you(most people will differ...) draw the line?
I believe the ability to think is what makes us human. If there was a baby that would not ever be able to think, it would not be "murder." Its ok in my eyes for someone in such a situation to euthanize. A baby that is not mentally able to make this decision for him/herself does not need to be guaranteed life.

How different of a question is this from abortion/contraception? Both regard uprooting a plant before it has a chance to grow. Its just a question of when and under what conditions its ok to do so. All the abstraction in the world won't allow us to plug some information into a formula and decide what is right.

There are cases where it is ok, and even right to euthanize a baby. The question is under what circumstances should we, as a society, decide a baby is euthanizable.

You just don't get do-overs with human lives.

A racist angle (1)

gas (2801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635222)

'We have a moral obligation to protect whites not because they are "intelligent", or "sentient", or "conscious", but rather because they are white people. Therefore, we will always be bound to protect any organism that is genetically a member of the white race, even if said creature is less self-aware than the negro that served my dinner tonight.'

In what way is that different? Answer: it's not. I just changed 'species' to 'race'. It's just as arbitrary, just as racist/speciesist, just as wrong. The reason to give anyone a right to, say, not suffer, should only be the ability to suffer, nothing else.

And both negroes and the chicken you ate tonight are most likely concious and can suffer. And the latter probably lived a hellish life before death.

You just don't know (1)

JCGregorio (6007) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635223)

One of the MANY flaws of this argument is that there is no way to tell what, in the long run, qualifies as a 'severely disabled' infant. My son is a wonderful example. At 3 months old he was diagnosed with large rapidly growing cysts in his brain. They had been present since long before birth and had caused malformations in his brain. He required immediate surgery to relieve the pressure in his brain. He hemmoraged during the operation and required an emergency craneotomy (That is, they removed a one inch diameter peice of his skull so they could reach inside and cauterize the area). After the operation the doctors told us that a lot of blood washed over his brain and along with the cystic material and malformations that we would be 'lucky' if he were only moderatly mentally retarded. We were also told that his motor control would be poor and that he may never even sit up. That was three years ago. My happy, walking, running and talking son scores in the 75% percentile on cognitive ability tests and attends a typical pre-school. In short, the doctors were wrong. I'll repeat it again if you missed it, the doctors were dead wrong. Which would have been the case if we lived in a "Singerian" world. Yes, there are still issues. For example he does not have great motor control so while he walks fine, he runs like a drunk linebacker and still has to use the hadrail to ascend or descend a flight of stairs. He also gets speech therapy 3 days a week. How about his quality of life, and the quality of life of my family? Just fine thank you. The moral of the story? Yes, there are birth defects and syndromes where the outcome is guaranteed to be grim. But for the rest of the cases, we just don't know. I don't know. You don't know. The doctors don't know. -joe

Re:i hope i dont get flamed for this (1)

axolotl (1659) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635224)

I know this may sound inhumane, but I'm sure the severly disabled aren't exactly living in a state of bliss.

Why does everyone these days seem to think that unless it's possible to live in a state of eternal happiness then life's not worth living? Of all the trillions of creatures alive right now, and all the trillions of trillions that have ever lived, how many do you think have been happy for even a majority of their life? Life still goes on. Now, that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for greater happiness in our lives. If however this mythical state of happiness can't be achieved, there's nothing bad or wrong in that; we shouldn't kill someone purely because they don't have the same capacity for a comfortable life that we do.
Each person is just as perfect as each other person, regardless of appearance or disability or morality. To try to set yourself up as more perfect, and in a position to judge whether others are worth helping or not, is a very dangerous game to play.


Re:Food for thought... (1)

orcrist (16312) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635237)

I am glad Hitler was not born in America - Many people over there probably still would cheer him as a hero.

I personally wish he had been born in America: Sure, he would have probably ended up as the Grand Poobah of JARG (Just Another Racist Group) and had some kind of following; but without the entire Nation at his feet he would have sunk into obscurity like most of his ilk. Or do you seriously think he would have ever risen to dictatorship in the U.S.?

An appropriate quote I once read from an Italian newspaper said (paraphrased):

The U.S. system of government is one which while allowing thieves and swindlers to be elected for the last two-hundred years, has never given rise to dictators like Mussolini or Hitler.

To put that another way, we rarely elect exceptionally good leaders, but at least we never elect exceptionally bad ones (at least relative to Hitler and the like).


Re:Peter Singer -- Hypocrite ? (1)

Mr_Ceebs (60709) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635241)

If I remember rightly, he dosen't advocate forcing this to happen, he just advocates giving people the choice. Till you've been in this situation you can spout all the theory that you want, but actually being put in this position, where you have to make the decision wether a loved ones life support should be maintained for example is an entirely different situation. In the UK where the cost of this level of care is generally not an issue we have maybe a purer representation of the problem. in countries with a less well developedsocial health system you need stronger ethical rules because an incurably ill person is Haemoraging funds from the family into the pockets of doctors. thus there is much moore incentive for the individual to quietly get the sick relative Eusthanatized.

Re:Food for thought... (2)

Teethgrinder (2842) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635243)

Altough I admit I'm not an expert on Darwin or evolutionaru theories the point about "survival of the fittest" is not always valid. Evolution always draws from diversity which makes everything thats not "normal" quite interesting to preserve.

The problem is that the definition of "fittest" in these days is constantly changing.

At a point were ideas - mental abilities - change evolution a lot faster then physical abilities a classic interpretation of "survival of the fittest" doesnt get you anywhere.

So, while someone might not be self-reliant he might still produce a lot of good thoughts. Hawkins is actually a good example although not really relevant to the "euthanizing babies" discussion. But if you'd bring him out in the woods he would starve. Which brings me to the next point - I would probably starve in the woods too because I just barely know how to use a microwave. Yet I think my life is quite worth preserving ;).

The problem is where to draw the border to what is "severly disabled". And I'm pretty glad I dont have to make that decision.

Well, its a pretty philosophical discussion and I'm used to be drunk when takeing part in those discussions. I'm not right now, so I'll stop here :).

This is how the holocaust started. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635246)

Look it up: The NAZIs started the holocaust by gassing people with physical and mental handicaps, on the pretext that it was the "kind" and "merciful" thing to do.

"All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

When some academic pinhead starts floating trial ballons like this, it is *imperative* that he suffer massive public ridicule, ostracision, and loss of *any* position of authority.

Decency demands that Singer's career ends as a vague memory at Princeton: i.e. "That nutcase asshole who said that Hitler was morally entitled to commit the crime of the century."

-jcr (A Jew who sure as hell isn't going to go quietly.)

Really? (1)

gas (2801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635247)

Then maybe you can explain the why moral differencies should be founded on the race/species/haircolor/intelligens/whatever of the individuals in question and not relevant properties such as the ability to suffer when talking suffering and so on?

Re:The laws of nature? (1)

flesh99 (32039) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635249)

Actaully the example the professor used in his book was one of a hemophiliac child. My poor uncle was a hemophiliac and dies at a young age of 65.

Re:Food for thought... (1)

Bartmoss (16109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635251)

I am not sure if he would really have risen to power in 1933, or not. Conditions weren't exactly the same, and I am not an expert on early 20th century US history. But someone with a little more subtlety could easily turn the US into a dictatorship. Oh of course officially you'd still be a democracy.... but even a democracy can be a very facist state. The US is not that much better than other countries, it's just you're so far usually on the side of the winners.

As for not electing exceptionally bad leaders, I dunno. Your parliaments seems to be full of them, looking at what kind of laws your folks have been passing the past few years. ;-)

Re:Food for thought... (2)

Section9 (98240) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635252)

You are exactly right in that opinions are like assholes, eveyone's got one. And most people don't want to see anyone else's.

The only opinon that matters in this sense is that of the Parents. As I mentioned, infanticide is still common in less developed nations, especially in China.

You can *not* manage life on a 'return on investment' basis. IMO.

I should be able to manage my OWN life on an ROI basis. (Physician assisted suicide)

I should be able to manage my unborn children on an ROI basis. (Abortion) After all, offsping mainly exist to provide for the continuance of our genetic heritage. Healthy ones have a better chance of achieving that goal.

And as a government, we all should be able to measure our social progams on an ROI basis. If the govenment sinks tons of money into a dying cause, there will be outrage.

Basically the needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the one.

Personally, I would rather my tax dollars go to cancer research or transplant operations rather than keeping a vegtable on life support for the rest of his/her life.

Intelligence? (1)

gas (2801) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635253)

So if I am more intelligent that you I have the right to torture you to death in return for "a slap on the wrist"?

Why should not the suffering I give you count just because you (or any concious animal, AI or alien) are less intelligent?

Re:What if Hawking was euthanized? (1)

evilpete (26941) | more than 14 years ago | (#1635254)

Extending the line of logic, we should demand ending all wars (basis: loss of potential) and redistribution of wealth to third world countries (who knows how many geniuses are lost to malnutrition, disease, insufficient education...).

That is exactly what we should demand, or at the very least what we should aim for. It makes for the most pragmatic use of the worlds resources. As a race we should help each other achieve what we can, rather than holding other people back to further our own causes.

There is nothing wrong (or right) with the demands as such; it's just that basing them on the premise of unknown talent that just might, conceivably, exist or come to exist somewhere isn't a sound argument.

Venture Capital companies make their money solely by investing in areas with potential - there must be some sense behing their policies. I'm not sure I advocate the forced redistribution of wealth - but I think it makes sense to voluntarily invest in the people around you. If you make the world a better place then you get to live in one.

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