The relentless march of the eugenics movement

On CNN.com, radiologist Dr. Grazie Christie writes about new parents who are contemplating suing her for ‘wrongful birth,’ i.e. a physician’s failure to diagnose a problem, which, if the expecting parents had known about, would have lead them to choose abortion. The defect in question is a cleft lip.

I have written about wrongful birth actions before and think that, legally, they ought to be prohibited.  Basic humanity suggests that we not allow someone to sue people over life rather than harm or death. Dr. Christie’s testimony shows us that there is no logical endpoint to such actions: it is not merely about a child who should have been diagnosed with Tay-Sachs or other such death sentences, but is really about any child that is not perfect. A cleft lip is one of the most common birth defects in America and is repairable with a simple surgery.

This goes beyond euthanasia, which acknowledges that a human being is dying (or never being conceived); it is the objectively incorrect idea that a pre-human, a not-person, is being returned and swapped out for another, more perfect, less cleft-lipped, person.  Once we’ve ceded the ground on abortion in the cases of Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and the like, the rationale used to justify those procedures is used to justify abortion in the case of an easily-fixable cosmetic defect.

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3 Comments

Filed under Bioethics

3 responses to “The relentless march of the eugenics movement

  1. A cleft lip is an admittedly ridiculous defect over which to sue. No person is without defect. But how about severe disability and suffering? Is life so sacrosanct that it must be created despite the harm it inflicts on parents, child, or society? Extend to eugenics: if we could all have freak-genius intelligence, would normal intelligence become a terrible disease? Abortion is already very common for Down’s Syndrome, along the same line of argument.

    The substitution argument with respect to abortion requires as a prerequisite the acceptance of a foetus as a person, with a right to live, or with a sacrosanct quality that morally demands preservation, that trumps its parents’ or society’s right to decide its future, or to spare it suffering. If a foetus is considered a proto-person not yet possessing that right or quality, the reason for abortion is irrelevant. And the moral argument is abstract, while in practical terms, abortion IS an opportunity to substitute.

    Just thoughts.

    Ian

    • bridget

      Ian,

      Thanks for commenting. A few comments:

      Is life so sacrosanct that it must be created despite the harm it inflicts on parents, child, or society?

      The discussion about, say, two parents who are both carriers for Tay-Sachs is different than that of abortion: in one situation, human life may be created, and in the other, it is already created.

      The substitution argument with respect to abortion requires as a prerequisite the acceptance of a foetus as a person

      Not quite: it requires that we believe the foetus is a human. The ‘personhood’ argument is used precisely because it allows anyone to substitute their subjective judgement as to what is a ‘person’ in place of objective evidence of being a living member of the human race. Now, if you want to argue that certain human beings aren’t ‘persons,’ go right ahead.

      that trumps its parents’ or society’s right to decide its future, or to spare it suffering.

      But we don’t allow parents to make that decision with an already-born child, people who lose their faculties, etc. The basis of the pro-life, anti-abortion ethic is that being in the womb isn’t different from being outside of it.
      or

  2. I suspect we are defining human and person differently, and assigning them different values. Perhaps on abortion, we will have to agree to differ.

    Is there a level of disability at which you would personally support abortion, and if so, what would it be?

    Parallel question: is there a level of suffering or disability, or other condition that would, in your opinion, constitute wrongful life– to the point of justifying the killing of a person/human? With that person’s consent? In a person without the ability to form consent? Sorry if I’m poking the bear a little here.

    Ian

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