Though it's a radical opinion, I believe that killing severely disabled infants is morally acceptable. I do not believe that it is morally wrong to kill a being that is in severe pain, or a being that lacks and will always lack self-consciousness. (The capacity to see itself as a distinct entity over time.) Essentially, I believe that euthanizing a severely disabled infant would be akin to euthanizing a severely disabled adult who had no self-awareness or capacity of viewing themselves as distinct beings over time, (like Terri Schiavo.) No argument I have encountered serves as a legitimate opposition to this sort of infanticide. Each of them is lacking, and most operate under false pretenses. As to the claim that human babies are special beings worthy of special treatment because of the sanctity of human life, I reject this viewpoint. I don’t believe that membership in the human species entitles a being to greater rights than other beings at the same level of self-consciousness and rationality. This typically stems from a Judeo-Christian perspective of life, which I also reject. I don’t believe in the existence of God, so Judeo-Christian tenets are irrelevant to me. Furthermore, these tenets are recklessly implausible, having been written by men living before the Dark Ages. Neither reason nor logic is present in the vast majority of these tenets. As to the claim that this would lead us down a “slippery slope,” I should point out that we’re not on even ground as it is. Abortion, contraception, and to some degree, euthanasia is already legal in much of Western society. This is less a question of heading down a slippery slope than moving in the right direction so that we don’t slip into places we don’t want to go. As to the objection by disabled persons that they would have been euthanized were such a proposition to become public policy, the very fact that they possess the self-consciousness and rationality necessary to understand the policy and oppose it proves that they would not be among those threatened by such a policy. Such a policy, if implemented, would apply to severely disabled infants incapable of viewing themselves as distinct entities over time. (Again, much like Terri Schiavo was.) This would not apply to mildly disabled infants, such as those with Down Syndrome or hemophilia, because even if these infants were unwanted by their parents, they could be adopted by childless persons who are desperate for children of their own. Thus, it would typically be morally impermissible to kill such infants. Does such a policy deny that the lives of disabled persons are “less” than those of normal persons? Yes, to some extent it does. But what would our friend who died last week tell us? These people aren’t “differently able,” they’re crippled! This is not to say that the lives of handicapped persons are valueless, but very often their lives are generally more miserable than those of normal person. Peter Singer pointed out an excellent example of this in Practical Ethics. It concerns the drug thalidomide. When this drug was taken by pregnant women, it resulted in their children being born without limbs. When this was discovered, the drug was taken off the market, and the drug company was forced to recompense the victimized parties. But if we regarded the lives of disabled people as being just as good as those of normal people, there would have been no reason to mandate compensation, and this would not have been considered a tragedy. So I understand that the lives of disabled or handicapped persons can be fulfilling and happy, but it is improbable and unlikely that, in general, they would be as fulfilling and happy as those of normal persons. But again, in reference to disabled people who would object that this policy could harm them, recall that the very fact that they possess the self-consciousness and rationality necessary to understand the policy and oppose it proves that they would not be among those threatened by such a policy. Now, as to the general issue of killing normal infants, this is obviously not permissible. But at the same time, killing an infant cannot be considered morally equivalent to killing a self-conscious human. An infant is not a person because it lacks the self-consciousness and rationality. However, an infant does possess the capacity to feel pain, so it would be a greater wrong to kill an infant in a cruel and inhumane manner than it would be to kill it painlessly. I’m not suggesting that killing normal, healthy infants is permissible of course, as I’ve already said. I simply don’t think that killing them should be considered as morally wrong as killing self-conscious, rational persons, human or not. There are a number of arguments against this also, and I find these to be just as lacking as the arguments against euthanizing severely disabled infants. As to the argument that this is unacceptable because infants are humans, I already addressed that above. Again, I don’t believe that membership in the human species entitles a being to greater rights than another being at the same level of self-consciousness and rationality. As to the specific argument against this because of the claim that healthy infants have the potential to become persons in the future, and it is therefore just as immoral to kill them as it would be a being that is a person at present, this view is flawed. For those who support abortion rights, but oppose this, I’d like to know what the critical distinction is. An embryo or a fetus also has the potential to become a person in the future, and yet you believe that killing them is morally permissible. For those who oppose abortion rights, I would point out that contraception or abstinence also inhibits the “potential” to create a person. Perhaps you think that the critical distinction is that an abortion is an “action” to prevent the existence of a person, while abstinence or contraception is an “inaction,” because a being is never created. But whether through an action or an inaction, the end result is that a person does not exist and never exists or existed. Thus, we should agree that euthanizing a severely disabled infant is both permissible and commendable. And killing a healthy infant is a lesser evil than killing a self-conscious rational person. Now, to the inevitable Nazi comparisons... The critical element of Nazi sterilizations and death programs was that they were compulsory and forced. In this regard, they have more in common with laws against voluntary euthanasia than with voluntary euthanasia itself. Both restrictions force a person into a certain path regarding life and death that they do not voluntarily make. The Nazi “euthanasia” program did not intend to provide humane benefits to those with miserable lives. It was designed to ensure the purity of the Aryan Volk, and weed out those considered unworthy. The Nazis fully recognized the immorality of their actions. They attempted to hide their genocidal ambitions for as long as possible, lying to the relatives of the executed about their loved ones’ fates, and even destroying the gas chambers at Auschwitz upon the approach of the Red Army. There is no legitimate moral comparison to be made with humane euthanasia programs. Once again, non-voluntary euthanasia, unlike voluntary euthanasia, is not actually involuntary, in that it goes against the wishes of the being(s) involved. Rather, they simply do not have wishes, because they do not possess self-consciousness, and lack the capacity to view themselves as distinct entities over time. As I have previously mentioned, I view the killing of a rational self conscious being as a greater evil than the killing of an unconscious or merely “conscious” being that is not self-conscious. Again, I define self-consciousness as the capacity to view oneself as a distinct entity over time. If a being does not possess the capacity to view itself as a distinct entity over time, and will never possess that capacity, then no, I wouldn’t say it was wrong to kill such a being, although I would not require it. If a being lacked actual self-consciousness, but was aware enough to feel pain and discomfort, then I would advise that such a being be euthanized, as its only existence can ever be one of pain and discomfort. So I ask you, should an infant born with spina bifida be forced to endure the pain of existence? If he or she is unable to attain self-consciousness and will never be capable of doing so, should great measures be taken to extend his or her life? The reason giving severely disabled infants lethal injections is morally justifiable is because such infants are already permitted to die. Lethal injections are a more humane and kinder way to ensure the end of pain. Do you agree or disagree? State your reasons.