Sunday, 5 February 2017

What I propose is already being done

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics launched an enquiry in 2006 into critical care in fetal and neonatal medicine, looking at the ethical, social and legal issues which may arise when making decisions surrounding treating extremely premature babies.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in its submission, recommended that a public debate be started around the options of "non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions, the best interests test and active euthanasia" for "the sickest of newborns". The College stated that there should be discussion over whether "deliberate intervention" to cause death in severely disabled newborn babies should be legalised; it stated that while it was not necessarily in favour of the move, it felt the issues should be debated. The College stated in this submission that having these options would save some families from years of emotional and financial suffering; it might also reduce the number of late abortions, "as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome". In response to this proposal, Pieter Sauer, a senior paediatrician in the Netherlands, argued that British neonatologists already perform "mercy killings" and should be allowed to do so openly.

The Church of England submission to the enquiry supported the view that doctors should be given the right to withhold treatment from seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances, and the Christian Medical Fellowship stated that when treatment would be "a burden" this was not euthanasia.

The Twelve Tables included a law that said disabled or deformed children should be put to death, usually by stoning.

In addition, Dionysius of Halicarnassus wrote that the city's founder Romulus required children who were born disabled to be exposed on a hillside. Historians think that this was a fairly common practice due to a believed high number of congenital defects, which are sourced due to poor nutrition, incest, and disease.

The laws of the Twelve Tables required the pater familias to ensure that "obviously deformed" infants were put to death. The survival of congenitally disabled adults, conspicuously evidenced among the elite by the partially-lame Emperor Claudius, demonstrates that personal choice was exercised in the matter.

Ironside received attention after her appearance on BBC One's religious discussion programme, Sunday Morning Live, in 2010. She stated "If a baby's going to be born severely disabled or totally unwanted, surely an abortion is the act of a loving mother." and added "If I were the mother of a suffering child - I mean a deeply suffering child - I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face... If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would."

The questionable viability of newly born infants, due, at least in part, to doubts as to whether they were premature or full-term, led Jewish law to exempt one who kills a child less than thirty days old from human prosecution, just as it treats the person who kills the terefah.

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