People have this belief that life is sacred in and of itself, but may have the wrong definition of what life is. Birth is pretty arbitrary a choice of when a human life begins–we humans define ourselves as being self-aware in contrast to most of the rest of earth’s life which is not. It may be difficult to determine when a human becomes self aware (18 months?) and that age as a cutoff would raise even more issues. But the point is that if a baby will not become self aware, or cannot become a functional member of society, doctors should be compelled to euthanise the infant. Parents are understandably attached to their offspring, but if they must consent to giving up their child, they may not. No matter how rich they may be, society cannot afford to pay for unproductive uses of resources, when those resources can be used to help those who can advance humanity. And they may suffer more–a lifetime of caring for a child who cannot be independent, or watching their baby die in days or weeks or months, rather than having it over quickly.
Terry Schiavo was not self aware, and as far as I am concerned, it was criminal to not euthanise her after she suffered irrecoverable brain damage. And it was unnecessarily cruel to remove her feeding tube and let her die of dehydration, rather than quickly ending her life. She tied up resources that could have been gainfully employed to help those who can serve the greater society, making keeping her alive ethically wrong. I went on a field trip to the Mary Cariola Center, a care center for the severely handicapped. It was the most gut-wrenching place I have ever been, seeing people with no ability to care for themselves, and who cannot benefit society being propped up at the cost of up to $100 000 per year. To see a boy with little brain function being fed through a tube, depriving 3 people of full rides to Cornell, made me so angry, and despondent for the future of humanity. These children, because their parents are rich and motivated, and our society would rather help these children who cannot possibly give back, deprive others of their tickets out of poverty and despondence. How can it be right for someone who cannot advance society or even take care of himself or herself to deprive 3 others of education and the possibility of a decent life? None of those children could become much of anything, but a person from the slums could become a great aid to society–if given the opportunity.
Utilitarian principles would tell us to do what would bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. Keeping people who are terminally ill, and possibly in pain, or worse, children who are nothing but a burden on society, is wrong. Help those who can function in society, and don’t spend enormous resources on battles that cannot be won–and are only fought for the sake of assuaging guilty consciences.
The Dutch are moving in the right direction, bringing this discussion out into the open, rather than keeping it behind closed doors, where there is no oversight, no debate, and no consideration of what is the best for everyone.