Don’t Worry, They’re Too Small to Care

What is it with Great Britain and hospital beds? Perhaps this is the same issue, but they decided against putting it in terms of money and beds.

Despite medical advances in prolonging life, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said the chances of an infant surviving after less than 22 weeks in the womb are very slim and that they often develop severe disabilities.

Better not try at all then. Along with those involved in severe car accidents and those who have a “slim chance” of surviving after 99.

In guidelines issued to help doctors and parents make difficult decisions about the care of extremely premature infants, the report recommended parents of babies born after 23 should be consulted and have the final say in whether intensive care is given to their baby.

Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? After 23 weeks, at least they’ll ask the parents before they withdraw care (read: kill). And, sure as shootin’, if a report like this calls a decision “difficult” they mean “don’t worry about it.”

“Natural instincts are to try to save all babies, even if the baby’s chances of survival are low,” said Professor Margaret Brazier who chaired the committee that produced the report.

“However, we don’t think it is always right to put a baby through the stress and pain of invasive treatment if the baby is unlikely to get better and death is inevitable.”

You had to know that this came out of academia. But seriously, couldn’t the professor have considered the implications of her words? Doesn’t anyone consider the implications of talk like this? She can’t even keep herself straight about what might happen without “invasive treatment”: either the baby is “unlikely to get better” or “death is inevitable.” I don’t know about you, but to me they don’t carry the same connotations. If death is inevitable, it’s a little more than “unlikely” that the baby will get better. Even more, who is this professor to say, based on her prognostications, who’s likely to get better and who will die? I guess it’s a little easier if we say “death is inevitable,” while hurrying it along into a little self-fulfilling prophecy.

Religious leaders in Britain welcomed the report saying it sets a clear distinction between interventions to cause death and decisions to withdraw or withhold treatment if it is thought to be futile.

“This reaffirms the validity of existing law prohibiting euthanasia, and upholds the vital and fundamental moral principle that the deliberate taking of innocent human life is always gravely wrong,” the Church of England House of Bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said in a joint statement.

Whatever this report does, it does not seem to me to uphold that “vital and fundamental moral principle.” Apparently the bishops and the professors were smoking together before they issued their reports and statements. What, I don’t know.

More circumspectly, I would not say that any artificial means of ventilating and circulating the blood of a dead body is wrong. True, it’s not worth performing futile measures to preserve a corpse. But these aren’t corpses! They’re infants. Not only that, the area around the word “artificial” has grown ever larger and will continue to grow larger as we consider ventilators “artificial.” We’ve already decided food and drink can be considered superfluous to a woman’s life, as long as the husband’s okay with it. And, as is usual with cases like this, ethics whisper and money screams. And, as is usual, we should not be surprised at the depths of the human capacity to rationalize murder.