“Mercy killing” of newborns evidence of dangerous slippery slope, critic says


The recent admission by a Dutch hospital that it has been mercy killing severely handicapped newborn babies by injecting them with lethal doses of muscle relaxant has prompted a Bill Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life, to state that “the Netherlands is a country continuing down the slippery slope to the most grotesque forms of euthanasia,” reported the conservative Illinois Leader on Wednesday.

“The hospital admits it is doing this now on an illegal basis, and wants to change the country’s law to go along with what they already do,” said Beckman. Mercy killing for adults who requested it has been legal in the Netherlands for three years, and Beckman says that killing handicapped infants is the next logical step.

He pointed to Princeton University professor Peter Singer a proponent of mercy killing of handicapped infants: “If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth,” writes Singer, “it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant's condition than is possible before birth.”

“Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all,” write Singer in his 1997 book, Practical Ethics.

“Those in favor of mercy killing continue to push the envelope further and further, to the younger and weaker, ” Beckman said, pointing out that Singer’s view  is shared by the Groningen Protocol, after the Dutch hospital, which proposes that parents should decide whether or not they want their newborns to live a life of suffering and agony, or conditions which would demand expensive artificial life support.

In contrast, the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2002 requires babies who are extremely premature or with severe maladies that are born alive as a result of a failed abortion, to be administered medical assistance, rather than be left by medical staff to die .

Two nurses from Chicago area hospitals gave eyewitness accounts at congressional hearings of  babies that were born alive after induced labor, and left on closet shelves until they died.

Then Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, however, said that the medical practice was not illegal. One such hospital reportedly investigated at the time was Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, whose spokesman told IllinoisLeader.com that inducing labor in these situations continued, despite the passing of the 2002 law.

A key issue in the 2004 U.S. Senate race between Republican Alan Keyes and Democrat Barack Obama, was the need for such legislation, which the Illinois legislature failed to pass the four times it was presented. Barack Obama called the proposed legislation “politically-motivated,” and opposed it.

The only US state which allows adults to be legally assisted in committing suicide is Oregon, although “Right-to-die” movement activists suggest that California may soon follow suit.

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