In response to Vol. 18, Issue 9: “Prolife Vs Prolife”

By: Torrey Moorman, Student

The past ten years have seen phenomenal changes in prenatal care and neo­natal intensive care capa­bilities. These changes have saved lives that, in the past, would never have come to fruition. This means we have also seen a multitude of miracle baby stories from around the world.

There are families that are enjoying children’s birthdays would not have been possible 15 or 20 years ago. While these stories are inspiring and heartwarming they leave out the rest of the story. Just because we can save a child, does that mean we should?

This question has been the subject many of debates and with good reason. We perceive our children as being our future. Most par­ents would sacrifice them­selves rather than see their children suffer.

Medical professionals are trained to save and pro­tect lives at all cost. The idea of allowing anyone to die has been viewed as aberrant. Allowing an infant to die is considered absolutely unethical.

At what point are par­ents and medical profession­als supposed to decide that any life is better than no life, or conversely that quality of life is more important than quantity of life? This can be by addressing the issue on a case by case basis, and to do that, the idea that some lives were not meant to be saved must be accepted.

The inherent difficulty is that human beings cannot discuss this in a non-emo­tional manner. Birth is an emotional experience while death, especially euthanasia, is an emotionally charged subject. The two items together are explosive.

Most people agree that infants are capable of feeling pain, and that infants should be treated in such a way as to minimize their suffering. After those two arguments have been conceded, how­ever, the proverbial can of worms is opened.

The concept that an infant must be subjected to intensive care is the defini­tion of saving an infant’s life at all cost. This idea, that no matter the cost – emotional, financial, and unbearable suf­fering – the infant should be saved fuels the debate against neonatal euthanasia.

Why must the infant be subjected to intensive care, simply because the possi­bility of life has crested the 50 percent mark? Have the improvements in neona­tal medicine decreased the severity of disabilities and suffering at the same rate it has increased the likeli­hood of children surviving extreme prematurity? And what of the infants born with debilitating, painful diseases?

If we accept the supposi­tion that all lives are equally valuable, then with today’s miracles of artificial hearts, lungs, naso-esophageal feeding tubes and ventilators, there is no reason to let anyone die. We can artificially force everyone to stay alive. ­

Yet no one has made this argument. If we are not going to artificially keep everyone alive, but we subject a newborn to intensive care, we are either saying a newborn’s life has more value than any other life, or that because the infant is unable to verbalize pain, that pain has less value.

Either argument leads down a slippery slope.

If an infant’s life is more valuable, what is to prevent society from hos­pitalizing a mother and forcing her to live in the healthiest way possible during pregnancy?

If the infant’s inabil­ity to communicate pain decreases the value of the infant’s pain, why waste money on adequate care?

We should acknowl­edge that there are instances when life sup­port puts an intolerable burden on the baby. The kindest thing we can do for infants in this cat­egory is active involun­tary euthanasia. Enable these tiny individuals to close their eyes in peace, while being held by loving parents.

Would it be so hor­rible for a physician to provide a dose of pain­killer that would erase all of that child’s suffering? Or would it be more ethi­cal to leave that infant to suffer?

I believe that invol­untary active euthanasia should be available for the select few cases where life is an intolerable burden and there are no other adequate solutions for the infant’s unbearable suffering.

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