Is euthanasia of the infant born at 22⁺⁰-23⁺⁶ weeks’ gestation (without congenital anomalies) morally permissible within the United Kingdom?
The contemporary moral philosopher Peter Singer (2017; Singer and Kuhse, 2002) has addressed the ethics surrounding medical infanticide within developed countries. Singer argues that infanticide is equivalent to preventing a person from existing, as opposed to killing a person. This claim is built on a simple dictum: that the infant is not a person, therefore her life does not bear the same moral value as that of the average older child or adult. Singer conjoins this thesis with other factors that he feels negate an infant’s entitlement to life to argue that her euthanasia is ethically permissible under certain conditions; such conditions include being in a state of suffering, disabled, and/or unwanted by parents. As neonates born at 22⁺⁰-23⁺⁶ weeks’ gestation suffer via commonplace practices within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and are likely to bear morbidities as an outcome of their extreme prematurity, Singer’s thesis is applicable to this group. By Section One of this paper I outline Singer’s philosophies concerning the treatment of these infants.Within Section Two I address Singer’s arguments, to which I raise a set of criticisms and defend the moral worth of EPIs. I reject Singer’s definition of personhood on the premise that it is radically chauvinistic and denigrates the existence of a vast number of human beings who have the potential to become valuable members of both their families and society. Further, society’s dehumanisation of the infant and acceptance of infanticide for the sake of parental convenience could have dire consequences for the overall well-being of parents who adopt this ideology, their children, and disabled members of society. I agree that medical infanticide is acceptable in instances where an infant is in constant physical pain as an outcome of an ongoing medical condition, but as the EPI without congenital anomalies is not subject to this, this concept does not apply to her.I believe that a good criterion for personhood should not be based on a list of psychological properties. By Section Three of this paper I put forward an alternative criterion based on an individual’s capacity to bestow goodness on the world, as I feel that there should be an inverse relationship between this capacity and worthiness of moral consideration. This criterion ascribes person status to a much wider group than Singer’s (including those neonates born on the cusp of legal viability), and accordingly an entitlement to legal protection.