Oxford University medical ethicists: Newborns are not “actual persons.”
By Jeffrey Lord, 3.31.15
You could call it “The Herod Procedure.” In case you missed? This was the headline and lengthy sub-headline in London’s Daily Telegraph:
Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say
Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.
Yes, you read that right. Here’s the opening of the story:
The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life.” The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.
The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.
They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
Rather than being “actual persons,” newborns were “potential persons.” They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.”
Got all that?
Safe to say the slide down the slippery slope has begun. Or, if you will, continues. Babies, goes the idea — not those in the womb at the center of endless abortion arguments but those already born — should now be killed on the whim of the parents. By coincidence this story emerges at the approach of Easter, the Christian holiday marking the death of Jesus and his resurrection. But there is another Christian story from the Bible, a story that revolves around the discovery by a fearful King Herod that the baby Jesus — heralded as a king — had been born. Seeing Jesus as a rival, the story of Herod’s reaction is recorded this way in Matthew 2:16 of the King James version of the Bible:
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
In other words? King Herod had his own “after birth abortion” program going. The eligibility age was two and under. That would do the trick to solve his problem, he thought. Maybe in honor of someone who got there first or at least much earlier with the idea the authors of this “new” idea could simply call their proposal “the Herod Procedure.”
What is the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics? It can be found here at… yes… Oxford University. What a relief to know that British elites — ethicists of course — are now deciding the already born are disposable.
Here’s how the Center describes itself:
In 2002, the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education, chaired by Mr Eiji Uehiro, established the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. The following year, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics was created within the Philosophy Faculty. Generous support by the Uehiro Foundation enabled the establishment of an annual series of three lectures, The Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics.
The goal of the Centre is to encourage and support debate and deeper rational reflection on practical ethics. The Centre as a whole will not promote a particular philosophy, approach, solution or point of view, though its individual members may give an argument to a substantive conclusion as a basis for dialogue, engagement and reflection. It is the method of rational analytic practical ethics that we aim to advance. The vision is Socratic, not missionary. We seek to be inclusive, encouraging debate between different approaches to ethics, aiming to resolve disagreements and identifying key areas of consensus.
… The fate of humanity in the 21st Century and following centuries will to a greater extent than ever before be determined by the choices made by human beings, the leaders and citizens of nations. It is the values, principles and wider ethics of these people that will determine their choices. We aim to enable practical ethics to develop and more effectively guide human choice.
Uh-huh. Nothing like a good Socratic discussion. And note that the Center carefully says they “will not promote a particular philosophy, approach, solution or point of view.” That’s a relief. Also? They “seek to be inclusive, encouraging debate between different approaches….” Well that’s just fabulous. Great news. So, apparently, if you’re a medical ethicist working across the pond at the Oxford Uehiro Center and you want to propose say, opening up the Herod Procedure to gays? Jews? Blacks? White males over 60? Pesky teenagers who are addicted to the Kardashians? Well come on in! Great to have you! Please explain how the ethical philosophy behind your concept of … um… removing… members of your selected group is ethical and worthy of dialogue. We have an office for you and we do like to socialize. Cocktails at five, dinner at six.
In the wake of all the revelations about the consulting MIT’s Jonathan Gruber did to make Obamacare a fact of American life? Heck, if we’re in the business of using consultants to “transform” America, maybe some lefty up there on Capitol Hill — Nancy Pelosi? — will summon these Brits to consult on medical ethics and then she can introduce legislation to legalize the Herod Procedure in America. President Obama is on a constant mission to build his legacy. The Herod Procedure could be that last transformational achievement. There would be debate, of course. As mentioned you would want to narrow the targeted groups — so to speak — down a bit. Get some focus and all that. A little give and take on who gets to live and who gets to die, whose favored and who is not is always a good thing.
Periodically around April first the occasional April Fools’ Day piece appears. In fact, I’ve written a few myself. But sad to say, what is being suggested over there in the hallowed halls of Oxford is no joke. It’s the real thing.
It is stunning to contemplate this news comes seventy years after World War II. A war that featured a deliberate mass slaughter of human beings of all ages and one race in particular. Was that slaughter — known to history as the Holocaust — ethical? What about the millions of Russians, Ukrainians, and others killed in the name of Soviet Communism? Ethical? Or the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia? What was the “ethical philosophy” behind that?
Who would have thought that all these years after the discovery of the death camps that serious British scholars, with Oxford University as a platform no less, would seriously be saying that a newborn baby was not — really — an “actual person”? In an era when ISIS sweeps through sections of the Middle East mass-murdering children along with men and women and a now-deposed president of Egypt was infamous for saying that Jews were not human beings but rather the “descendants of apes and pigs”? One isn’t sure whether the appropriate descriptive for the medical ethics on display at Oxford is “frightening” — or “shameful.”
About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more at http://spectator.org/articles/62238/herod-procedure-after-birth-abortion-arrives