Last month, Dr. Louis Roy of the Quebec College of Physicians testifying at the Commons’ Special Joint Committee of Medical Assistance in Dying called for euthanasia for infants up to the age of one who are born with “severe malformations” and “grave and severe syndromes” when a physician reckons there is little chance for survival or whose suffering is deemed too much. The grisly call for a change to public policy to permit the medicalized murder of newborns is the logical next step for a polity that permits eugenic abortions – the targeted killing of preborn children with prenatal diagnoses detected by genetic tests. It also represents Canadian public policy taking a step closer to the dark ideology of bioethicist Peter Singer.
For more than four decades, Singer argued for a right to abortion after birth in cases of severely disabled infants. The right to abortion after birth is more accurately labeled infanticide, which is what euthanasia for infants would clearly qualify as. It would be illustrative to quote directly from Singer’s body of work. In his handbook Practical Ethics (1979), he argued: “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons … the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” He said parents and physicians should have the right to decide if “the infant’s life will be so miserable or so devoid of minimal satisfaction that it would be inhumane or futile to prolong life.” In Should the Baby Live: The Problem of Handicapped Infants (co-written with Helga Kuhse in 1985), Singer argued: “It does not seem wise to add to the burden on limited resources by increasing the number of severely disabled children.” Thus, Singer and Kuhse suggested, “a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to live as others.” He would, in later writings and speeches, say that the right to abortion could be extended to two years old, at which time he determined the infant was self-aware.
Singer’s ugly worldview is based on Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian idea that mankind should maximize happiness and pleasure and minimize unhappiness and pain. With infanticide – whether gussied up as a post-birth abortion or infant euthanasia – a third party (whether it be the parents or a doctor) would be making the decision about which life is worth living in order to minimize pain, with the child having no say whatsoever.
Singer is an internationally renowned author, a former president of the International Association of Bioethics, a tenured professor at Princeton University, and an endowed chair at the university’s Center for Human Values. He is not some marginal academic, but a major influence on two generations of bioethicists, the doctors they have instructed and medical bodies they have infiltrated. Singer’s warped worldview may shock many Canadians who blanch at the idea of euthanizing infants, but we wonder how long widespread opposition to killing newborns will last, considering the public’s tolerance of eugenic abortions. If it makes sense to kill a child in utero because of its health status, what, exactly, is the principle that prevents killing a child a few months later for the same reason?