Peter singer infanticide essay

Peter Singer: Views on Infanticide Nothing New—But Just as Bad

It will be seen that this condition is not satisfied by human fetuses and infants, and thus that they do not have a right to life. So unless there are other objections to abortion and infanticide which are sound, one is forced to conclude that these practices are morally acceptable ones.

Peter Singer says it’s OK to abort babies with Down’s syndrome

For it is quite possible that some nonhuman animals do possess properties that endow them with a right to life. Unable to display preview.

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On Peter Singer's difficult ideas: why the disability movement still faces nuanced questions about difference and suffering. I asked Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Infanticide” published in Philosophy and Public Affairs—perhaps the.

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My book, Abortion and Infanticide Oxford University Press, , contains a detailed examination of other important objections. The hospital authorities, uncertain of their leg position, took the matter to court. Both the local county court and the Indiana State Supreme Court upheld the parents' rig] to refuse consent to surgery. The case attracted national made attention, and an attempt was made to take it to the U. Supreme Court, but before this could happen, Baby Doe died. One result of the Baby Doe case was that the U. But the new regulations were strongly resisted by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In court hearings on the regulations, even Dr C. Everett Koop, Reagan's surgeon-general and the driving force behind the attempt to ensure that all infants should be treated, had to admit that there were some cases in which he would not provide life sustaining treatment.

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Dr Koop mentioned three conditions in which, he said, life-sustaining treatment was not appropriate anencephalic infants infants born without a brain ; infants who had, usually as a result of extreme prematurity, suffered such severe bleeding in the brain that they would never be able to breathe without a respirator and would never be able even to recognise another person; and infants lacking a major part of their digestive tract, who could only be kept alive by means o a drip providing nourishment directly into the bloodstream.

The regulations were eventually accepted only in a watered down form, allowing some flexibility to doctors. Even so, a subsequent survey of American paediatricians specialising in the care of newborn infants showed that 76 percent thought that the regulations were not necessary, 66 percent considered the regulations interfered with parents' right to determine what course of action was in the best interests of their children, and 60 percent believed that the regulations did not allow adequate consideration of infants' suffering. In a series of British cases, the courts have accepted the view that the quality of a child's life is a relevant consideration in deciding whether life-sustaining treatment should be provided.

In a case called In re B, concerning a baby like Baby Doe, with Down's syndrome and an intestinal obstruction, the court said that surgery should be carried out, because the infant's life would not be'demonstrably awful'. This was also the course taken in the case of Re Baby J: this infant was born extremely prematurely, and was blind and deaf and would probably never have been able to speak. Thus, though many would disagree with Baby Doe's parents about allowing a Down's syndrome infant to die because people with Down's syndrome can live enjoyable lives and be warm and loving individuals , virtually everyone recognises that in more severe conditions, allowing an infant to die is the only humane and ethically acceptable course to take. The question is: if it is right to allow infants to die, why is it wrong to kill them? This question has not escaped the notice of the doctors involved.

Frequently they answer it by a pious reference to the nineteenth-century poet, Arthur Clough, who wrote:. Unfortunately for those who appeal to Clough's immortal lines as an authoritative ethical pronouncement, they come from a biting satire - 'The Latest Decalogue' - the intent of which is to mock the attitudes described. The opening lines, for example, are:. Thou shalt have one god only; who Would be at the expense of two. No graven images may be Worshipped except the currency. So Clough cannot be numbered on the side of those who think it wrong to kill, but right not to try too hard to keep alive.

The view that there is something to be said for it is often termed 'the acts and omissions doctrine'. It holds that there is an important moral distinction between performing an act that has certain consequences - say , the death of a disabled child - and omitting to do something that has the same consequences. What grounds are there for accepting the acts and omissions doctrine? Few champion the doctrine for its own sake, as an important ethical first principle. It is, rather, an implication of one view of ethics, of a view that holds that as long as we do not violate specified moral rules that place determinate moral obligations upon us, we do all that morality demands of us.

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These rules are of the kind made familiar by the Ten Commandments and similar moral codes: Do not kill, Do not lie, Do not steal, and so on. Characteristically they are formulated in the negative, so that to obey them it is necessary only to abstain from the actions they prohibit. Hence obedience can be demanded of every member of the community. An ethic consisting of specific duties, prescribed by moral rules that everyone can be expected to obey, must make a sharp moral distinction between acts and omissions. Take, for example, the rule: 'Do not kill.

Few of us are murderers. It is not so easy to avoid letting innocent humans die. Many people die because of insufficient food, or poor medical facilities. If we could assist some of them, but do not do so, we are letting them die. Taking the rule against killing to apply to omissions would make living in accordance with it a mark of saintliness or moral heroism, rather than a minimum required of every morally decent person.

An ethic that judges acts according to whether they do or do not violate specific moral rules must, therefore, place moral weight on the distinction between acts and omissions. An ethic that judges acts by their consequences will not do so, for the consequences of an act and an emission will often be, in all significant respects, indistinguishable. For instance, emitting to give antibiotics to a child with pneumonia may have consequences no less fatal than giving the child a lethal injection.

Which approach is right? I have argued for a consequentialist approach to ethics. What we need to do is imagine two parallel situations differing only in that in one a person performs an act resulting in the death of another human being, while in the other she omits to do something, with the same result.

Here is a description of a relatively common situation, taken from an essay by Sir Gustav Nossal, an eminent Australian medical researcher:.

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An old lady of 83 has been admitted [to a nursing home for the aged] because her increasing degree of mental confusion has made it impossible for her to stay in her own home, and there is no one willing and able to look after her. Over three years, her condition deteriorates. She loses the ability to speak, requires to be fed, and becomes incontinent.

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Finally, she cannot sit in an armchair any longer, and is confined permanently to bed. One day, she contracts pneumonia. In a patient who was enjoying a reasonable quality of life, pneumonia would be routinely treated with antibiotics. Should this patient be given antibiotics?

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Nossal continues:. The relatives are contacted, and the matron of the nursing home tells them that she and the doctor she uses most frequently have worked out a loose arrangement for cases of this type. With advanced senile dementia, they treat the first three infections with antibiotics, and after that, mindful of the adage that 'pneumonia is the old person's friend', they let nature take its course. The matron emphasises that if the relatives desire, all infections can be vigorously treated.

The relatives agree with the rule of thumb. The patient dies of a urinary tract infection six months later. This patient died when she did as a result of a deliberate omission. Many people would think that this omission was well- justified.