More outraged Christian and right-wing venues attack the argument for euthanasia of suffering infants (and the arguer)

I didn’t at all expect the outrage emitted by some news sites—all of them either conservative or religious—over my post about the morality of relieving the suffering of terminally ill, terminally deformed, or terminally diseased newborns by euthanizing them. I’m planning on a longer discussion of this issue elsewhere, but you can read a good argument for restricted infant euthanasia in the third edition of Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics, a book that’s of the best demonstrations I know of the usefulness of philosophy.

Singer, as you may know, has been both professionally and physically attacked for this view, including someone in Europe rushing the podium at one of his talks, snatching away his glasses, and stomping on them. There have been repeated calls for Singer’s firing from Princeton. The opposition, predictably, comes from the religious, the conservatives, and disabled people who argue that Singer’s ethics could have called for them to be killed. But virtually none of those disabled people would have been euthanized under a strict protocol, for if there was a chance they could live a decent life and not be too onerous to care for, there are many parents who would either care of them or find others to adopt them. Also, predictably, many of those who are outraged at the idea of euthanasia are just as outraged at the idea of legal abortion.

Of course I don’t think that all newborns—or those with mild conditions that can permit a life that’s not full of pain and misery—should be candidates for euthanasia. The notion should be limited to infants with conditions that will kill them soon or, with near certainty, within a few years, and will cause them to suffer. There should be strict conditions (parental consent, medical and legal regulations, agreement of physicians, etc.).

Right now let me just add that we see no problem with euthanizing terminally suffering animals—animals that, as far as science can tell us from neurology and brain development, are at least as self-aware and sentient as a newborn human. Why are human newborns different from an adult horse, dog, or chimp? There’s no reason I can see unless you’re religious and think we alone have souls. That explains the opposition by the religious and many conservatives, who tend to be religious. Human exceptionalism of one sort or another is at base of knee-jerk opposition to the idea of euthanasia.

Since I know all these sites are scrutinizing my every word, I’ll add one more thing: twenty years ago assisted suicide was just as demonized by the very same groups, but now it’s seen by many progressives as something that should be left to people’s choice under certain conditions. Giving people that choice is the right thing to do. It’s legal in several countries and three states, and it will become legal in more countries and states. Morality progresses, and it’s people like Singer—and cases like that of Terri Schiavo—that move our thinking forward.

What I don’t understand are all these people who seem to be in favor of infant suffering—the very same people who would find it merciful to euthanize a beloved pet if it were suffering to the same degree. In many cases the suffering is prolonged and the case hopeless. Why would anybody want it to go on? What good reason is there when a quick and merciful death is available? The same people who would have no opposition to turning off a respirator or withdrawing a feeding tube from a terminally ill infant quail at the idea of ending the suffering with an injection, despite there being no substantive difference between the two procedures (both involve decisions to do something, and both have a predictable result), except that the last one is often more merciful and causes less suffering.

Below are three of more than a dozen pieces (click on screenshot to go to link) excoriating the idea of infant euthanasia; I’ll put up a list soon. But now I understand the kind of unwarranted opprobrium Peter Singer garnered—just for trying to get people to put aside their knee-jerk reactions and religious indoctrination, and think about things. Ask yourself this: if an infant is born who is doomed to die within a few hours or even a few years, and will be suffering constantly the whole time, why would you want that pointless suffering to continue?

I urge these folks to read the New York Times story that inspired my own post, a piece provocatively called “You should not have let your baby die.” (What the author meant is that “you should have killed your baby.”) It’s a poignant argument for infant euthanasia, but one that’s implicit  in the sad story it recounts.

And the emails are coming in: here are three that arrived in the last 30 minutes (I’m writing this on Thursday afternoon). I reproduce them as written, omitting the email addresses out of kindness. But I reserve the right to publish the email addresses of anyone who is threatening or  really vile.

Greetings Dr. Coyne:
Congratulations on spelling out the actual thoughts of those who embrace evolution and determinism.  In this paradigm it doesn’t matter whether we kill babies, run over old people, or use nuclear weapons – after all the fittest will survive.  Should all of humanity die at least.a new species will emerge from another source and that species may prove more capable of adapting.
In the meantime, let me say, I once embraced this narrative but now everywhere encourage people to consider the following, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
All the best,
Steve Coplon

******

And a vile email from Bill Harlan (joggin55@hotmail.com) with the title “You should”:

Have been euthanize and aborted, because your brain is messed up like a dog or a cat. You have no concept of life as they do.

*******

This one was headed “new borns”:

Dr. Coyne: Your idea of the morality of destroying a severely handicapped new born only makes sense to those who are severely handicapped spiritually.  When Christ is removed as one’s moral authority, then one starts his presupposition as you did with the erroneous idea that abortion is not immoral.  Believe it or not there is a universal standard of morality by which we will all be held accountable, which is Christ, and I sincerely hope that you will come to that understanding.

Lewis W. Brandt

More to come. . .

*********

Here’s a lovely missive, unsuccessfully attempting to disturb my evening by calling me a Nazi. This one I consider vile because of the last sentence:

So infants are basically no different than cats or dogs. Neither has any concept of death. And we don’t have a problem euthanizing dogs and cats. So if religion would just disappear (get out of the way)…bingo, no more problems euthanizing the young? , the old?, the ????.
Professor Coyne, you are one sick member of the human race.
I see very little difference, if any, between your logic and that of the German Nazis when they decided the earth would be much better off without any Jewish people. Just my opinion but I would suggest the earth would be much better off without you and your “intellectual superiority”.

Steven Schoenfeldt
Grand Rapids, MI
Lowly Engineering Graduate
University of Wisconsin
sjschoenfeldt@comcast.net

Want more? There are lots of comments on the articles listed above, and other articles, and they’re not pretty.

132 Comments

  1. Aldo Matteucci
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    take heart. any gynecologist will confirm that about 50% of zygotes naturally don’t implant and 1/7 dies naturally. Presumably, it is God’s work.

  2. somer
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    They offer no practical and humane reason for their position and are just concerned about “souls” and dogma not people and suffering.

    • loren russell
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Humans — a soul factory in the eyes of god?

      • Mark R.
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

        Small batteries perhaps to energize the new Matrix. muwahahaha

  3. Kevin
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    The second half of this century will see virtually no remnant of the divine justified morality these people desire. Minimizing suffering is the only algorithm set to play a role from engineering controls, bioethics policies, to legal mandates that decide the outcomes of lives that have no potential for happiness.

    Religions tends to maximize suffering.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Suffering is good for the soul. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        You just made Nietzsche spin in his grave.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

          I was channeling Zorg.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        What have you done today to increase your own suffering? How do you know it’s enough?

        • darrelle
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          I Read your comment.

          Just kidding!

          Should have put sarcasm tags around that 1st comment.

      • Harry M. Corrigan
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        There are many religious people [like the late Mother Theresa] who think they are doing you a favor by extending your suffering. Gets you into heaven faster, or something.

      • Bob
        Posted July 29, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        What doesn’t kill you makes you miserable.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 29, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          Haha! So true!

  4. Tom Esslinger
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Keep up the good work Jerry. You’re right. Compassion and common sense are on your side. Those criticizing you are ignorant holdovers from the dark ages.

    • Posted September 4, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Not all of them. I am an atheist, and I disagree with Prof. Coyne and Peter Singer on this subject. But I do not throw my opinion every time when there is a discussion here about this, it would be trolling.

  5. rickflick
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    This is really an edgy topic. People find it hard to think rationally about such an emotion laden area involving life and death. It is in fact true that to insist that no infant be euthanized means to be in favor of infant suffering. But it’s easier for some to sit back and watch a screaming infant suffer a slow agonizing death over many hours, than to lift a hand to mercifully end the suffering. It’s as if by not acting decisively, they can be free of responsibility. But it doesn’t work that way. I’d hold them responsible.

    • Zach
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      “People find it hard to think rationally about such an emotion laden area involving life and death.”

      Specification: Religiously addled soul-botherers find it hard to think rationally about such an emotion laden area involving life and death.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the religious are seriously unable to contend with the issues. My suggestion is that it’s even hard for the non-religious simply because it involves the ending of another human life. There’s even more drama in it when the life is your own child. I would hope, even with the shock factor, most non religious people would ultimately come to the right answer. The religious? Not so much.

        • Simon
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

          Human beings are not robots and it would be a mistake to believe that such powerful inhibitions could be brushed aside without some sort of consequence. It is not rational to assume that enough is known about the societal effect to feel safe about crossing a threshold like this. Sometimes the religious should be listened to as it is very possible that some of the beliefs they hold are grounded in fundamental truths about humanity.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

            “some of the beliefs they hold are grounded in fundamental truths about humanity”

            Yes this is almost necessarily true since the religious and the religious tradition at issue will always be a product of fundamental human experience. But, as we almost always find, the historical experience contains logical and factual errors which are easy to enumerate. Religious tradition would like us to think they have a relevant store of moral insights to impart whereas they consistently prove to wildly overestimate their contribution. Better, I think, to start from scratch.

            • Zach
              Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

              Better, I think, to start from scratch.

              Well, not from scratch. Just as older people, by virtue of their experience, tend to be wiser, so too do older cultural traditions undoubtedly have some—some—firm contact points on the nature of reality (or at least on the human condition within it). Thus, just as it’s necessary to parse Grandpa’s timeless wisdom from his nostalgic bull!@#&, so too is it necessary to extract the diamonds from religion’s rough. To give an always-relevant example, the traditional monotheistic conception of human nature as irreparably flawed is much closer to reality than the modern leftist conception, which “wildly overestimates” (to use your verbiage) the malleability of people.

              To bring this back to Simon’s comment (which is what I’m really responding to), and to his contention that “It is not rational to assume that enough is known about the societal effect to feel safe about crossing a threshold like this”…

              Yeah… we crossed that threshold awhile ago. Infanticide (which is really what we’re talking about) is as old as humanity itself. Hell, postpartum depression is probably an evolved response to childbirth in order to facilitate it. And, contrary to what the average Christian will tell you about the salubrious effects of their ideology, its practice has never truly ended, not even in the West.

              Of course, we currently find most ancient rationals for infanticide morally abhorrent. Reasons for doing it such as “This thing won’t make a good warrior” or “Eww—it’s kind of coughing a lot” no longer pass muster. And they shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean the absolutist prohibition against ending human life which the religious like to invoke (and then ignore whenever they feel like it) holds sway.

              Leaving all that aside though, the issue at hand is whether taking a fatally compromised infant off of life support and letting it die slowly is more moral than giving it a lethal dose of something so it dies quickly.

              I, personally, don’t think it is. And I have to wonder at the “fundamental truths” of the people who do.

              • D.H.
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 3:13 am | Permalink

                The “leftists” you seem to be talking about actually underestimate people.

              • rickflick
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:18 am | Permalink

                I grew up in Western Michigan and often heard the sermons by Duncan Littlefair of the liberal Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. The sermons were broadcast on radio. Littlefair was a dynamic speaker who always began his sermons with a reading from the bible, even though he, and the church were more closely related to UU than any Christian denomination. He would take what he felt were the deeply human insights from the biblical passages and weave them into fine philosophical essays reflecting modern concerns. I’ll have to say, these sermons were very effective for a congregation whose members must have derived from various Christian denominations. There was no woo in them to speak of, but Littlefair did point out that the religious traditions came from deeply human, universal, concerns. While I greatly admire what he did, I think of the sourcing from the bible as more of a literary device than a essential part of modern philosophical debate.

  6. Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    “Why are human newborns different from an adult horse, dog, or chimp? There’s no reason I can see unless you’re religious and think we alone have souls.”

    I am in no way religious nor do I think we have woulds, but I do think human newborns are different to horses, dogs, chimps and all other non-human animals. I understand the reasoning behind your argument and won’t try to argue against it. I don’t agree that the only reason must be religious.

    I feel that any another human is only a fews degrees apart from my own relations. We all have a sort of sliding scale of concern for the well being of other creatures – some of us are appalled at whale hunting but have no trouble eating sushi made from tuna. We, each of us, sort other forms of life in a loose and changeable hierarchy. There are many reasons for this and it is true that some of those hierarchies, especially WRT human exceptionalism, are underpinned by religion.

    If we are honest we all do this – we care much more deeply about our own children, for example, than we do for the children of people we do not know. Just so, it would be far easier for me to end the life of a dog, horse or chimp than it would be for *any* human child, even with reasons as sound and justifiable as you state. That child could be *mine*. It is a deep racial (meaning human race) thing to care more for those of our kind than for others. That’s why I think human children ARE different and I don’t need any kind of religious sentiment to come to that conclusion. I think I only need several million years of ancestors, adaptations, and evolution.

    • Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      stoopid autocowreck. “woulds” should be “souls”. Probably others in there but I’m not going to bother.

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        A very presumptuous post if I may say so.
        However I respect your right to express your views but I do not agree with them.

        There are many of us who do not have sliding scales for the well being of other creatures and do not sort other forms of life into a loose and changeable hierarchy.

        Just so, it would be as difficult for me to end the life of a dog horse or chimp as it would be for any human, child, newborns or not. I can assure you I am quite honest in this.

        These attitudes of ill found human superiority are arguably why humans are in the crisis they now find themselves.

        Human children certainly are different, they have the potential to take their place within the most destructive of the planets higher species and I don’t need religion to come to this conclusion, possibly several million years of ancestors, adaptations and evolution.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I feel similar to you but I don’t know if others do. People tend to put humans above all other animals on the hierarchy of animals but I don’t buy it either.

          Here is a sad story about a military dog that had to be euthanized & his final farewell.

          • Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

            Thank you Diana.
            I know from experience that we are not alone in our views.
            The euthanized military dog story is very sad but at least no further suffering for the much loved companion or friend.

            Robert Ladley

          • rickflick
            Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

            We lost our dear dog a while back in the same way. Twelve years old and cancerous black lab mix. It was quite a loss to the family. Euthanasia is the standard procedure. A dose of sedative and then a fatal dose. Sleep comes swiftly and quietly. But no suffering.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              Yes, a while back I had a black lab who developed cancer at 8. I decided to euthanize her as she was suffering from internal bleeding and the suffering would only get worse. It was one of the worst things I had to do but I knew it was the kindest thing to do for her. It’s the part of the relationship with other animals that I find so difficult because I often enjoy the companionship of other animals more than the working relationships I have with many fellow humans (because humans can be jerks).

              • rickflick
                Posted July 28, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

                It just occurred to me that vets can treat many forms of cancer much as would be done for humans. Radiation and chemo. However, with humans this is completely routine while with dogs and cats, its optional. To spend thousands of dollars to extend your pets life a few months is not a choice many would make, while for our father or wife, any days added will be jealously pursued. Society generally relegates pets to a lower level of concern, which I think is justified. However, if your dog is suffering, we can opt to put her down mercifully, while grandpa needs to hire an attorney to accomplish the same thing.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

                I think it’s more complicated. Anyone who has gone through cancer treatment, especially aggressive cancer treatment, knows that it’s comes at a high cost. So, there are many good reasons to not do treatment if it will only extend life for a couple of months and good doctors will be honest about that. Chemo is tricky and it comes with a high risk of killing you. Radiation can be horribly painful for people who need to treat internal organs with it. Both of long term trade offs. Chemo can cause serious neuropathy and leave you disabled. Radiation scars you enough to cause edema in some circumstances.

                I wouldn’t put a pet or person through that for a couple of months of life because the treatment would rob you of time you could spend enjoying your life. The difference with humans is they can decide for themselves if it’s worth those risks.

          • Craw
            Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            Do you kill bacteria? I think you draw a line somewhere. You do buy it.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 28, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

              reductio ad absurdum.

        • Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for your comment Robert. I wonder though…. Do you feel the same way about humans and dogs and chimps as you do about mosquitos? What about the bot flies? Clams? Amoebas? Fungi? Petunias? Phytoplanckton?

          I think you do have the same kind of hierarchy of concern for other living things that we all do. Your’s is just more reified than mine.

          • Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            Dear Mikeyc.

            Well, put simply, everything that exists whether chimps, mosquitos, clams etc has a right to exist regardless of or despite human existence.
            Many things flora and fauna are an anathema to human existence and I recognize this quite clearly but does not in my opinion confer automatic absolute superiority for the human species over any other.

            I think your question is too simplistic and I am not trying to avoid an answer. I could address each entity you list individually but this would still not answer your question.
            I try to the best of my ability to exist in balance with the planet and I know from experience that this is not possible but I do try.
            I inadvertently kill living things whilst I live and breathe and I am not a monk who sweeps the path before him as he walks.

            My concern for other living things may be at variance with other human positions but I stand by my original statement and I have much experience to call on.

            Also I have eaten the odd petunia and mosquito, inadvertently in the case of the mosquito.

            I have also experienced malaria but I do not hold this against the mosquito and I am pragmatic enough to recognize that the modern medicine cure came at the expense of another living thing.

            Whether we like to admit or not, there are too many humans and unless we seriously amend our attitude to the planet and the other remaining species we humans may not be around to enjoy it much longer regardless of any hierarchical viewpoint.

            • Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

              I’m not going to let you off the hook so easily, Robert. The questions were rhetorical; I wasn’t expecting you to answer for each “entity” (as you put it). I was hoping that you would see that you do put a hierarchy on life, despite your claims above. We all do. There is nothing wrong with doing so.

              I think you also elided part of my claim – that those hierarchies we make are loose and changeable. Just so, while in a broad sense I value human life over all other animals (I know you and others don’t – that’s NOT the point), there are some animals lives I hold higher than some humans. For example I think I would have much more difficulty killing my own dear cat than I would killing certain humans.

              We -all of us- (you included, Robert) make these kinds of moral and ethical decisions every day and there is no way, even in principle, that one can hold a moral or ethical equivalency for all life. You draw your boundaries in places that I do not. Others here have their own.

              In short, my position is that those boundaries are changeable and contingent, they impact this discussion and they don’t necessarily rely on religion.

              • Craw
                Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

                This whole thread: well done mikeyc to not let them get away with the pose.

              • Posted July 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                Dear mikeyc
                I will ignore the unpleasant post from craw because I believe we, you and I, are above such irrelevant statements.

                This is not a pose.

                I accept your view and agree your point, we all do have some heirearchical standpoint, ours are just somewhat at variance and they definitely do not depend in any shape or form on religion.
                Good discussion.
                Enough said.
                My best regards.
                Robert Ladley

              • Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:06 am | Permalink

                Yes, if I gave the impression that religion is the only source of this feeling, I apologize. Yes, evolution can be another reason, and so can mere solipsism. But that dosn’t change the morality for me. The more sentient and rational the being, and the more it can feel pain and suffer, the less moral it is to take a decision euthanize it. I can’t draw a strict line, but it’s surely worth discussing whether suffering newborns fall on a side different from suffering dogs or cats.

                Let’s stop arguing about where this feeling comes from (although you have to admit that nearly all the pushback I’ve gotten has been from the religious–why is that?) and talk about the simple morality of putting a terminally ill or deformed infant out of its suffering.

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Are you a parent?

          • Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

            I assume your question is addressed to me.

            I have been a parent. I will not expand more on this answer.

        • Simon
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          As a general rule, the higher the intelligence and awareness of a social species, the more grief experienced by others and loss of potential meaningful experience there is.

          Shoot a cow elephant in front of it’s calf and the calf experiences grief and life-long psychological effects. Kill a shark and so what?

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      We are hardwired by evolution to feel that way: caring more about our children than about some (other) animal. However reason tells us that PCC’s and Peter Singer’s position is the correct one, i.e. that the important thing in all cases is to minimise ussfering,

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        As I said, I understand the reasoning. I do not think that religion is the only reason why one would have difficulty ending the life of a newborn child.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think having difficulty is at all the issue. It’s whether to pull the plug or not based on the suffering being experienced. Everyone, I assume has difficulty. The issue is if your discomfort is greater than that of a child in agony.

        • Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          Yes, I agree, so please drop that claim. You’ve said it several times.

      • somer
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Ussfering? is that autocowreck at work again? I offer mea culpa for quite a few non autocorrect typos in my entries over time. But autocowreck can be very annoying.

    • Curt Nelson
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      This may explain why people care more for other people than they do for other animals but it doesn’t explain why withholding euthanasia is justified. Maybe you didn’t intend to explain that.

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I guess I wasn’t clear. My apologies.

        I understand Dr CC’s and Singer’s arguments that euthanizing newborns who face terrible futures should be considered.

        I was disagreeing with Dr CC’s argument that feeling differently about ending the lives of human newborns vs animal newborns is always due to religiosity. I don’t think it necessarily is as I am not religious and I know that I would have a great deal more difficulty ending the life of a human newborn than an animals.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          With respect, I don’t think difficulty is germane to the main point being made. Religion teaches that one is to defer to God, or to the priests, or to fate rather than take things into your own hands. So you are implored by the Church to let the child suffer through to the end because it is Gods will. If you’re not religious what excuse can you give for watching a child die in agony over many hours? That’s the question that must be answered.

          • Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            I do understand your point, Rick and I agree with it. In the end the principle consideration (I think) that should go into the decision is the suffering of the child. That is not an easy decision to make for any reason, but it is the proper primary rational one to make. I think you, Dr Coyne and Singer are saying that and I agree.

            Just to make it clear – in this thread I was disputing only one thing Dr Coyne said; that the only reason why one would feel differently about euthanizing a human child than a non-human animal are religious viewpoints.

            I do not think that is true. There are other reasons.

            • Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

              You keep saying this and I clarified my position yesterday a bit, agreeing with you. I’ve clarified it again in this thread. It’s time to leave it alone. But you have to admit, and you have avoided the issue, that nearly all the pushback I’ve gotten on this issue has been from religious people and extreme conservatives, who, of course, are usually religious.

              Enough.

              • mikeyc
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

                Please look at the time stamps. I made these comments yesterday morning. I was responding to people responding to my comment; either I was unclear or they missed my point and I was clarifying it.

                Sorry for the irritation. I’ll refrain from posting.

    • jay
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      I too am fully atheist but with concerns. One does not need to be religious to question some of this. I believe Jerry has a point when he addresses strictly the suffering individuals with fatal conditions, but in parts of the world that’s not how it has played out. (And I feel that Singer has produced enough wingnut theories to make him questionable as a source of ethics)

      As I pointed out earlier, in some ‘progressive’ areas it has evolved into abortions of convenience, particularly Down syndrome people (who actually CAN live a productive life). According to some numbers I’ve read, NO Down syndrome children have been born in Iceland for over a decade, and extremely view in Netherlands. Other detectable conditions similarly.

      The driving force behind these appears to be COST, discussions of lifetime care cost seem to come up in the arguments justifying these steps.

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        I had not heard of this about Down’s. I just did the googles. It appears so.

        This is a very troubling aspect of this issue. Precisely why the discussion brought up -bravely by some turns- by our host and Singer is so important to have.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        I don’t see any problem there. An aborted foetus (whether it might have had Downs or not) is just a potential human who never lived, just like the billions of other never-existed humans who were aborted or killed-by-God before birth (isn’t the percentage something like 50 per cent?). They won’t miss what they never had.

        Why would you *want* to bring a child with Downs into the world? Because it might not be overwhelmingly cripplingly disabled, just moderately so? If you arbitrarily selected any foetus at random and had the chance to decide whether it had Downs or not, which would you decide?** And yes, there is a very powerful economic argument, the more Downs (or similarly disabled) people there are to soak up health budgets, the less there is for everyone else including other disable-ees.

        Some Downs sufferers (or their caregivers) have got this completely ass-backwards and assume that any endeavour to reduce the number of Downs infants born is a direct attack on them. But they already exist; nobody (and certainly not Peter Singer) is arguing that those who already exist should be euthanised. In fact if they’re capable of coherently objecting then (almost by definition) such proposals are not aimed at them.

        cr
        (** IMO, anyone who says ‘Downs’ either has some political agenda, or has Munchhausen-by-proxy or Mother Teresa syndrome)

        • rickflick
          Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          I agree. No one would wish to be born with Down Syndrome, so why would anyone approve of it for someone else? And, if the Mother(it’s almost always the mother) does not want to take on the burden of a child with a genetic condition, why would anyone insist that she does? It seems to me those who advocate that others carry Down Syndrome fetuses to term are being selfish. They are not helping the fetus or the mother or the rest of society.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 6, 2017 at 2:32 am | Permalink

            And often the burden of care falls upon siblings once their parents are too old to continue. Or too dead.

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      + 1. I wonder why this view has so few followers here. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be put by my fellow humans on the same balance as a dog or a pig.

  7. BobTerrace
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Each of these buffoons stretch what you said into absurd positions that are no where near what you said or believe.

    I suspect these willfully ignorant ones never got beyond the headline of the article.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      reductio ad absurdum is more often used for evil than good.

      • Craw
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Nonsense. Reductio is a form of logical argument, and a correct one. You might as well say modus ponens is more often used for evil than good.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 6, 2017 at 4:58 am | Permalink

        Agreed, Diana.

        cr

  8. Geoff Toscano
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it is going to be easy to draw up guidelines that can work in the sorts of circumstance you advocate. The trouble is, if debate is to be stifled in the way that your email correspondents would like, then there is no prospect of even getting to a start line.

    The email from the religious zealot proclaiming that morality comes only from Christ (whose very existence isn’t by any means certain) sums up the problem. When reason and superstition collide reason can often prevail, but it’s a messy business.

  9. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I’d say it’s the parent’s responsibility, with the aid of their doctor’s prognosis, to make such a decision. No one ought to be telling them what they “should” do.

    Life is not something to be dismissed easily, even if we were to toss out religion entirely (if only we would!). Being alive at all is a special condition that we will experience (or not) only once. Years ago there were many situations where a newborn was doomed by medical conditions that are today treatable. Many treatments are likely painful or uncomfortable, but transitory.

    I hate to use the “slippery slope” argument as much as you but, where DO we draw the line? Premature birth? Physical deformity? Mental capacity? ….and at what level of severity? Who decides? The doctor? The state?

    I think this has got to be a situation in which parents, on a case by case basis, make these decisions and are the ultimate authority on what course to take. Then, in certain extreme cases, i would be in favour of merciful euthanasia.

    • Dick Veldkamp
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Phil,

      That’s the thing: you CANNOT draw a clear line. The best thing is probably -as you say- to leave it to the parents, after consulting with doctors.

      One of the problems in discussing this with opponents of euthanasia is that they refuse to concede that there are ALWAYS cases that are very hard to decide, and no clear guideline can be devised.

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        “…no clear guidelines can be devised.”

        Aye, there’s the rub. Guidelines will be very difficult things to come by. There will always be cases that fall inside or outside whatever guidelines are devised (if any).

        But first we have to talk about the issue. Broach the subject. Hash it out. I applaud Dr CC and Singer for doing just this.

    • Simon
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      “I’d say it’s the parent’s responsibility, with the aid of their doctor’s prognosis, to make such a decision. No one ought to be telling them what they “should” do.”

      Even if the parents are unfeeling losers who’d quite like to dump the little pink financial burden?

      • Posted July 28, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        This is called poisoning the well. How could Phil make a good defense (and there are good defenses) when you frame it this way?

        Phil can answer for himself, but I think most people here are not saying any such decision be at the parent’s sole discretion, as a scenario like you make could actually happen. Everyone is saying instead that though the parents must be involved, they are necessary but not sufficient to make any decisions of this sort.

        There are no guidelines in place now, of course, but one could imagine that it would require the consent of outside doctors and legal representatives; people who can act as checks on the motive of the parents, as well as to independently assess the child’s situation. No one anywhere is suggesting parents would be able to opt for euthanasia for financial reasons.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

          If the parents are ‘unfeeling losers’ (or even disadvantaged, poor or in-desperate-circumstances ‘losers’ who are going to be devastated by the financial burden, along with the starving kids they have already) then they should have had a freely-available abortion long before it reaches that stage.

          But oh golly gosh, many of the people who will argue against euthanasia are the exact same ones who will argue against abortion or the morning-after pill or contraception, what a surprise.

          cr

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      When my mother was pregnant with me, a relation, who was a doctor and a molecular biologist, advised her to abort because she was 37 and the risk to have a baby with Down syndrome was “too high”.(Prenatal diagnosis was unheard-of in those days.)

      • rickflick
        Posted September 5, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        Do you consider yourself lucky? Or just here.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Sadly people close their ears and minds when they only follow the unconscious advice of their amygdala.

  11. Curt Nelson
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    This is why I cringe whenever I hear an atheist say that they don’t talk about their atheism and have no problem with religion (as long as the religious keep it to themselves).

    There’s no such thing. Religion permeates everything!

  12. Rita
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    “Also, predictably, many of those who are outraged at the idea of euthanasia are just as outraged at the idea of legal abortion.” But, they usually have no problem with the death penalty.

  13. Monika
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t that what makes us human? The ability to make the compassionate choice?

    Apparently some of the letter writers want to forbid even thinking about this topic, that IMO is truely evil.

  14. Randy schenck
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Religion will always work their side of the street but then they push their requirements on everyone else. They want to suffer in ignorance so everyone else must do the same. People are smarter than that but the letters indicate otherwise. Attack the messenger and provide no reason other than religion. Hell, they don’t even want to provide health care to living people if they are poor and cannot afford it. Such compassion is overwhelming.

  15. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    under certain conditions

    And that’s the whole motivating force behind the “pro life” crowd. Careful, thoughtful, analysis will show that life is built on many ‘trade-offs’, that morals are relative, and many natural systems are messy and unpredictable. There is no Supreme Being to be your friend. There is no magic.

    Yet the default human methods of thought naturally produce cheap and broadly effective ‘rules of thumb’. These become ‘hard and fast’ guidance. ‘Absolute morality’. And the ‘rule of thumb’ failures are ignored and suppressed because otherwise there is no magic.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Do I ever agree with that!

      ‘Guidelines’ that turn into rigid rules and sacred diktats to be enforced by petty authority figures (we used to call them ‘little Hitlers’) everywhere. It’s much easier and saves them the pain of thinking or actually making a decision.

      cr

  16. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Keep going Prof! Perhaps you could give us the percent of life-at-all-costs emailers who address general quality of life & suffering, rather than going for the cheap, inaccurate shots [heartless darwinist blah blah].

    I do not know how Singer copes – I’ve seen many a vile comments thread where it’s clear the loudest voices have never read him.

  17. Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    ” Why are human newborns different from an adult horse, dog, or chimp?”

    One could say that a potential of further development is part of the attributes of a being. A human infant can become a fully sentient and self-aware human, while a dog will never. That is a rational differentiation, you do not need to be religious for it.

    Of course it is a moot point, when we are talking about terminally ill children in pain. They do not have that potential to begin with. So I do not mean this as an argument against euthanasia in those cases, I am just saying in general that there is difference between a newborn human and a dog even for somebody who does not believe in souls.

    Besides, saying that a human newborn is no different from an animal is a dangerous argument, because consistent application of that logic puts the killing of a baby at the same level as the killing of a horse, regardless of medical conditions.

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, many would say that killing of a baby is no big deal, because he is not sentient.

  18. sensorrhea
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    People with strident feelings along these lines are almost never those (doctors, nurses, and patients) intimately familiar with the infinite variety of horrors nature inflicts upon fetuses.

  19. James J Shumaker
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, As of now, I have been in chronic pain for closing in on 28 years. I have been in numerous automobile accidents beginning from the age of 14. While riding on the big yellow bus, this occurred on two separate occasions, people ran stop signs and the impacts for each accident were right below my head leaning against the window trying to sleep a few more minutes. I have a chronic pain syndrome, spondylosis, right-sided S/I joint dysfunction creating significant radiculopathy, degenerative disc disease, the disc at L1-L2 is ruptured and leaking I also have 10 separate discs going from my lumbar region into my cervical spine that have herniated discs, both of my rotator cuffs are torn. I am confident that you get the idea.

    During my under-graduate studies we were assigned to write a controversial essay and then present the essay to the class and then defend our position. Just to let you know know, I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the following events took place in the very early 2000’s. That should give you an idea of the political climate that I was raised in. Groups like Focus on the Family were setting up their headquarters, along with Compassion just to identify two of the larger cult based organizations.

    I choose the topic of euthanasia as being at times the only moral option that the medical community can be left with. I also wrote that these end of life decisions should be and need to be discussed with family members spouses, adult children and so on. That if an individual chooses to make this decision, besides the family discussion, the living will or do not resuscitate or any other document would be best if completed with the counsel of an attorney that specializes in these matters. But ultimately, the decision would be made long before the life-altering or ending at least brain death wise had taken place.

    There were only about twenty people in this particular class. Small private for profit university. All of the other classmates who had gone prior to my presentation all received some very limited challenges to their stances but all of the prior presentations were not about emotionally charged issues.

    As soon as I had concluded with my presentation, before I could even take a drink of water I had about one half of the class out right screaming at me. Calling names such as baby killer, I do not recall the specific name but it was geared to geriatric killer and so on. While all of this was going on I kept quiet leaning on the podium up on stage with a big smirk on my face.

    Once the instructor had regained control, more or less, he continued to remark that all of the previous speakers were allowed to make their presentations without being attacked and he was not going to allow for the class to verbally assault me. He demanded that the class show me the same level of respect as had been given to those who went before me.

    So the first question that was asked of me was asked by a young female classmate, “So you have no issue or qualms with the killing of innocent babies”? I began to answer her question and once again the class explodes into chaos. As the instructor was trying to establish order and control once again I was busy opening my Powerpoint presentation to the subject and what my actual view on abortion was/is.

    I pointed out that abortion has been around for thousands of years using very barbaric methods which frequently killed the fetus but the mother as well. That with the advances that we have made in medical technology especially imaging and diagnostics, your doctor if there was an issue would be able to accurately tell the parents with a very high degree of certainty if the fetus was viable and the type of life that if the pregnancy was to go to term, what kind of life that child would have. Unfortunately, life does not always go along with our preconceived script and sometimes this results in miscarriages, and other times some very unimaginably cruel malformations and conditions where if the fetus survives the first few hours or day, their existence would be in inconceivable levels of pain.

    After I had made the remark about “inconceivable levels of pain” another classmate tried to call my bluff and stated that I had no idea what I was talking about, that I had never experienced pain and tried to negate the personal touch that I tried to humanize the presentation with. As he sat down, so smug and proud of himself, I asked if he had ever broken a bone in his body, to which he replied proudly that he had had a minor fracture to his Ulna of his right arm. He continued to boast that he was so tough and could handle pain that he did not even take aspirin for this injury.

    Leaning up against the podium I congratulated him. One for being so lucky to have gone through his life up to this point without ever really experiencing pain. This statement he took great offense to. “I had broken my Ulna and I hurt very badly.” I reiterated his words back to him, “a minor fracture to his Ulna of his right arm. He continued to boast that he was so tough and could handle pain that he did not even take aspirin for this injury”. These are your words not mine correct? He shook hid head in the affirmative. I went on with my personal experience that in April 1988 I fractured the Pars region of L-5. The fracture was almost complete, I came to within a hairs thickness of breaking off part of a piece of one of my lumbar vertebra. Unlike him, I was not nearly as fortunate as I experienced a level of constant pain that when I moved my eyes to look around the room I was overwhelmed with waves of pain. If my back had not not healed as well as it had I would of taken my own life. Fortunately, I sought out the right doctors, ones that would listen to me and try and understand through my limited vocabulary, it is very difficult to speak in such intense pain, but they were able to order the correct imaging exams and quickly diagnosed me with the defect in my back that caused the fracture.

    Now for myself, after experiencing chronic pain for about 85% of my life if I had to live that way because of someone else’s ridiculous dogma I would find any way to make the pain stop.

    The issue of the elderly came up. As they were too infirmed and had dementia but also happened to be afflicted with levels of pain some of us will not even be able to imagine or think of, what about them. Once again I returned to my Powerpoint slides and displayed the slide that stated ”
    That if an individual chooses to make this decision, besides the family discussion, the living will or do not resuscitate or any other document would be best if completed with the counsel of an attorney that specializes in these matters. But ultimately, the decision would be made long before the life-altering or ending at least brain death wise had taken place.” This negates your argument right there.

    As the Q%A section was over and I had gathered my items and returned to my seat not one person had the decency or politeness to clap even once. As an atheist I have been out for a long time and I certainly do not need accolades from close minded bigots who are unable to think for themselves. I was proud of my presentation, my defense of my position and most of all of how well I kept my composure as I was verbally attacked. I held my ground and never once deviated from my convictions.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      Maybe your presentation at least made one person stop and think a bit, then or in the future.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Sorry to hear about the unfortunate events that led to your current state of chronic pain. Many on this site have experience with chronic pain. It always surprises me when I meet someone who has been pain-free all their life (my dad is an example). People, including many health care professionals, really don’t recognize how awful pain can be. I had to raise my voice to my GP and my neurologist when to get them to do anything for the migraines I experienced daily for 2 years. Throwing up many mornings and driving 2 hours a day to work. Good grief – how is it hard to understand that pain kills? I can completely understand someone ending their life over chronic pain.

      • James J Shumaker
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your kind words. The worst part of the chronic pain for me is the isolation. I am very quiet and introverted to begin with and the more I hurt the more I withdraw from everything and everyone. Often, my wife travels for work or in February her mother passed. The cold weather of winter amplifies my pain exponentially. Thus making it so much easier to withdraw from the world. There was almost one month of not speaking to anyone except a few minutes at night on the phone with my wife. Luckily, I found a doctor that has performed some interventional pain management therapies. With that and seeing a good therapist right now I am making very good progress.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 29, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          Glad you have found some relief! I hope it continues.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Oh and the guy with the fractured bone….those people drive me nuts. Many time, on hearing the handful of meds I take to function, someone will say “I don’t take any medication for headaches”, implying that they are “tougher” than me. I usually congratulate them on their good fortune at never having to go through the type of pain that requires medication.

      • Craw
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        And we live in a time where there is now a war on pain relievers. It is truly horrifying to see all the attacks on pain meds, because of the drug war.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 28, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Not just because of the drug war but because someone might abuse them. So that seems to justify doing things like giving my friend Tylenol for stage IV cancer that has spread to her bones and caused numerous fractures along her spine and ribs. They took her off hospice because she didn’t die fast enough and if she isn’t on hospice she gets no drugs. Barbaric. Happily, she is now back in hospice but not until she had gone through weeks of needless suffering.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

            That ill-conceived ‘War on (some) Drugs’ has caused huge amounts of suffering as collateral damage. If someone’s dying slowly in pain what the hell can it conceivably matter if they get addicted to painkillers?

            But back to broken bones – people tend to imagine that’s the worst thing you can break but that’s frequently not the case. It all depends on the bone. I’ve had a couple of cracked bones in toes and they weren’t all that bad (I’m not being a mock hero here, the pain I’ve had from kidney stones or from a pulled muscle in my back was many times worse). In fact my doctor said, if you had the choice (which you never do of course) of a broken bone or torn ligaments, take the bone. It will heal many times quicker and cause far less inconvenience.

            Of course he was obviously referring to a ‘simple’ break, not conditions like Mr Shumaker’s, I hasten to add.

            cr

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 29, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

              Oh yes, soft tissue damage is awful. I have soft tissue problems all over and they never really completely heal then once they start, they like making scar tissue which causes further issues.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

                I pulled a tendon in my left ankle. Not acutely badly, I could still walk. Still, it took two years to fully recover.

                By contrast, I’d forgotten to mention the biggest bone I’ve ever ‘broken’ – not really broken, it was when I had my heart operation. It wasn’t till a week beforehand that it ever occurred to me to wonder how they get at it. “We saw you in half” said my heart specialist happily**. Right down the breastbone. This must count as a major, major ‘break’. But anyway, after the op, they wire it back together and it starts healing straight away, and within a few weeks it’s essentially healed.

                **He had a way with words. It also occurred to me to ask, since the heart is intransigently self-starting, how they keep it still to operate on. “We poison it”. Should have guessed…

                And while I’m at it, the paddles they use to jump-start heart patients – they don’t. They STOP the heart (because it’s fibrillating). It restarts all by itself.

                cr

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

                Both nub thumbs are messed up as is my back and neck – all soft tissue. But lately, I have tendonitis in my right heel. I’m getting some sort of treatment called “shock wave” that is supposed to help it. I tried icing it and it didn’t really help. So, I went to the podiatrist and now I’m getting new orthotics and the treatment but it’s expensive. Over $700 for the orthotics and exam and the shock wave is $100 a visit. He recommended 5 visits but I signed up for 4. It’s a PITA because it’s once a week at different times. Funny enough, I have to walk 1km to get to my car then 1km when I come back to work. So how do you think my foot will feel? I hope my benefits cover most of the cost or I’m going to need a second job. I’m considering bringing my Brompton fold up bike as I can get to the parking lot faster and it folds up into my trunk nice and neat. Plus, no using my heel to get to my car.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted July 29, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

                Well Diana, I’ll wish you the best possible outcome for the treatment.

                cr

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 30, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

                Thanks. I hope it works too because if it does I’m going to go to Physio and ask about it for my neck.

  20. Pliny the in Between
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I suspect I am in the minority in that my professional career required me to make decisions similar to the ones being discussed here. Triage, to separate out, is a hard thing. Deciding who gets access to limited resources, when has the probability of success dropped below any rational degree of hope, who has reached beyond the tipping point where the preservation of life becomes the prolongation of suffering. Those decisions never got easier despite 25 years of experience. The only real lesson I can offer from that experience is that religious dogma never made any of it easier. Pragmatism, Empathy and compassion were much more helpful.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      It occurred to me that if I was deselected and condemned to death via triage, and I knew that the folks making the decision did their best to do it right, I’d be very happy to die knowing someone else was probably saved.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted July 28, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        You remember every one of their faces. Doing well by all their ghosts is what ends up driving you.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 30, 2017 at 3:36 am | Permalink

          Sounds like an awful responsibility, but it also sounds like you were the right person for it. Kudos.

  21. josh
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Not that we should be relying on religion for any guidance about how to live (or end) our lives, but it’s also worth pointing out that Jesus doesn’t say one word about euthanasia or abortion. He is in fact against procreation, in that a truly “pure” individual should forego sex if at all possible in his teaching.

  22. Vaal
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Take everything sinister a Christian accuses you of and add: “But it’s ok when God does it”…and there you have Christian morality.

  23. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    It is really sad that people appear to be unable to even discuss this. I believe it to be an important subject and it should not be rushed into. To do this, we first need to talk about it but it would seem that, as soon as it is brought up, others try to shut the discussion down again. Well done sir for talking about it in the first place.

    I would also like to ask those who so vehemently object to any form of euthanasia, what is the difference in withdrawing medication and feeding and giving an injection which ends life? In both cases you know that your actions will result in death. Why is doing one acceptable while doing the other is not?

  24. BJ
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Hey, one of the headlines called you “famed.” That’s pretty cool!

  25. Alpha Neil
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Prominent evolutionist + killing infants = conservative headline goldmine.

    These are the same people who look up to Abraham because he was going to kill his own son. They also celebrate the baby killing festival of passover. Seems to me that baby killing is a very biblical thing to do so I don’t understand their objection.

  26. Dr Nicholas Wickham
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Interesting and more than somewhat ironic response from Christians whose religion is based on filicide

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      However, if I get the New Testament right, Jesus wasn’t really killed by his father. He was just forced to endure a terrible morning.

  27. Barbara J. Anderson
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a question and a study to be done.At 5 years, 10 years, 20 years after deciding to care for a mentally/physically impaired child/newborn, what percentage of parents,caregivers would reply, “No.” if asked would they do it again ? I am a nurse who works for a home health agency, providing private duty nurses in the home for children and adults on gastric tube feedings, tracheostomies,and ventilators.The toll on the families is so much more than the cost.

  28. Posted July 28, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    You do not tamper with human exceptionalism it seems. The only major difference with others of the animal kingdom is our unique brain and it’s not too inconsiderable abilities.
    We humans have found ourselves as chief judge, arbitrator and despot of what life means and how to favour ourselves over all others, things and anything else you care to name.
    This is bogus, they are our contemporaries as they too have endured, evolved and via natural selection survived million of years to wander a planet somewhere here in a vast universe.
    A human baby has and is ‘potential’ like all small defenceless animals (the hairless primate) but of course, nurturing and care of humans is a considerable two way investment and it should not be taken lightly, as humans we have come along way to understanding this.
    This potential life if severely constrained to pain, misery, brutal and short should be treated with grace, care and considerable compassion. Not to the whims of a supernatural ideology of someone none have heard speak, let alone seen (except in their own heads) espousing on about pain and suffering is my gift to you, take joy from that.
    Those who believe ‘that’ or any human exceptionalism ideology have never realised their potential for the truth and so much for the child’s right to die with dignity. These people are at best delusional, at worst, cowards.
    Death comes from any quarter and my grief for a newborn would be just as intense as if for one of my young adult children i am under no illusion about this.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 28, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Hear! Hear! Well said.

  29. ladyatheist
    Posted July 28, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    The Teri Schiavo case got me interested in the supposed ethics of Christians and how moral principles should be founde. That case showed the true hollowness of Christian philosophy because according to their wedding ceremony the father gives away his daughter (who is chattel) to her husband and his family. From then on the father has no say in what happens to his daughter, yet he tried to intervene. Christians were horrified that the husband asserted the rights that her father had given him!

    Re: pet euthanasia is “humane” is that they don’t understand death and we can’t explain suffering to them, so they’re “different” from humans, including newborns, which is ridiculous. Also, they are against abortion because they claim (falsely) that early-term fetuses can feel pain, yet they have no problem allowing newborns to feel pain.

    They are afraid of death, and their supposedly logical or biblical reasoning is really psychological projection. If we could devise a way to have them experience what Charlie Gard felt, they’d beg to have it end.

    • Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      Lady atheist, it’s interesting that you have brought up Charlie Gard. His English parents raised two and a half million dollars to have him treated in the US. Despite US congress granting Charlie permanent status, the doctors and high court judges and the European Court of human rights wouldn’t allow his parents to take him.

      • Posted July 29, 2017 at 4:25 am | Permalink

        And the doctor who said he could help him decided he could’t–the case was terminal. And the infant died yesterday.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 29, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        ” the doctors and high court judges and the European Court of human rights wouldn’t allow his parents to take him.”

        That is a clear distortion. You make it sound like they were all perversely acting against the interests of the kid, which is bullshit.

        The lower court decided that it was not in the child’s best interests to prolong his life, considering (amongst other points) that he might be suffering and that the US physician had stated that his treatment would be unlikely to help. The Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Human Rights could see no reason to overturn this.
        (Short summary – Actual developments were more complicated than that – see the Wikipedia page on Charlie Gard).

        Anything US Congress did was surely political grandstanding.

        cr

      • ladyatheist
        Posted July 30, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        That $2.5 million would be better spent developing an early-term test that would give parents the choice to abort before any suffering took place. Or even better, genetic testing of parents.

  30. Posted July 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why you didn’t expect outrage over your post. Unless you believe yours is the only valid opinion.
    When you write about a controversial subject expect people to disagree. Why pick on Christians? I don’t believe in heaven or reincarnation. That’s why I believe that everyone has the right to every moment owing to them. I shudder at the thought of strangers deciding for me whether my child passes the test.

    • Posted July 29, 2017 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      As I said, since you apparently didn’t read the post, this would not not be done WITHOUT the assent of the parent. But it would have to conform to legal regulations, and doctors would have to see if the case what sufficiently dire. As for your pretend empathy, you want a terminally ill child to keep suffering because those moments of suffering are sufficiently precious. Shame on you.

    • Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you.

  31. peepuk
    Posted July 29, 2017 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    “Morality progresses”

    I don’t know if this is true.

    Utilitarian morals are not in any way more true or justified as any other morals; in the and we are just justifying our preferences with other arbitrary arguments.

    Humans do not need external moral guidelines, we are (almost) all equipped with a moral system that works reasonable well.

    Luckily, under the influence of liberalism, we tend to support lesser and lesser moral rules.

    Personally I prefer no morals over arbitrary moral rules, but I don’t think that this is moral progress; it is a decline, and I welcome it, because it forces us to think again and again about very difficult decisions in our lives.

  32. Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    In view of Prof. Coyne’s consistent defense of Milo Yiannopoulos’ freedom of speech, I found it particularly incongruous that one of the attacks on him appeared at Milo News. I left the following comment.

    QUOTE

    I’m also an atheist, like Prof. Coyne, but more to the right than average.  In fact, I recently defended Milo’s book on my blog:

    http://helian.net/blog/2017/07/16/worldview/milos-dangerous/

    However, I also agree with Prof. Coyne’s view on euthanasia of infants.  Unlike the furious zealots of the rest and the right, however, I don’t assume the right to stuff my views on morality down anyone else’s throat.  It’s odd that many of the commenters on this thread defend their pious hatred of Coyne in the name of Judeo-Christian morality.  There seems to be something of a disconnect between their rage and what is taught in the Bible, such as “judge not, lest ye be judged,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “Blessed are the meek,” etc.  In view of the fact that Christians have used their religion to kill tens of millions in religious wars, a million “witches,” give or take, in the Middle Ages, hundreds of thousands of Jews in pogroms over the centuries, most notably whenever a body of troops left for the Crusades, and murdered tens of thousands more as “heretics,” it seems absurd for them to imagine they’re standing on the moral high ground as they foam at the mouth about Coyne’s views on euthanasia. 

    As it happens, it’s particularly incongruous in view of Prof. Coyne’s consistent and effective defense of freedom of speech in general and Milo’s freedom of speech in particular.  See, for example

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/milo-yiannopoulos-talk-canceled-at-university-of-california-at-davis/

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/berkeley-students-defend-violent-protests-over-milo-yiannopoulos-talk/

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/milo-falls-on-his-sword/

    In “Dangerous” Milo places the University of Chicago at the top of the list of his college “heroes,” noting that the “Chicago Principles on Free Expression” are the “gold standard in the fight against campus censorship.”  Prof. Coyne has consistently and strongly defended those principles.  These are a few things to consider as you work yourselves up into orgasms of pious indignation.

    I would love to see Milo sit down and have a beer with Coyne sometime.  They are both individuals who can actually think.  The results of the exchange might be interesting.

    END QUOTE

  33. Posted July 29, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Mental models deep within the mind may be responsible for moral judgments of this kind, or why the Trolley Problem exist.

    Humans cast a situation in pre-language mental constructions, of some actor that causes, something that may oppose the causation, and helpers and hinderer entities. For such reasons, many people are intuitively horrified to cause death, but fine with not interfering, which also causes death. Other mental model of the situation, where death is not caused, but “merely” helped, may radically change how someone feels about it.

    This idea may explain intuitions, but of course not preferences of one model over another.

    One pitfall I see with the argumentation of ending suffering swiftly: It might already be framed as such that a person only suffers, while in reality, they may have all kinds of experiences, some which might be positive. Of course, parents will have trouble to let them die, and will believe that their own presence is itself worth having (extrapolated from their own experiences), which becomes a powerful rationalization.

  34. Posted July 29, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    You’ve got to watch out about including the permanently deformed. Many people who are not disabled greatly underestimate the quality of life a deformed person could have. Otherwise, as with Terry Schiavo, I agree with you. Terminally ill with severe suffering is the guideline. .

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 29, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      I think the permanently deformed should have the same option for voluntary euthanasia as [I think] everyone else should have.

      They are surely the best judges of whether their disability is intolerable.

      (Though I note that ‘deformed’ is always a very fuzzy and arguable line to draw).

      cr

  35. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 29, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Awful emotional reactions, not an argument against euthanasia among them but instead personal attack, with appeal to religion of all things immoral. And – which is both patently absurd and totally vile – witlessly attacking parts of biology that is not involved (evolution).

    By the way, I am not sure Bill Harlan did respond with a coherent argument at all!? Which, I note, is fairly typical as these unthinking reactions go.

  36. Posted July 29, 2017 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    This is a hard one that requires good, solid discussion and debate.

    I have not arrived at a conclusion, as I am torn in both directions. Mothers develop relationships with their babies before they are born and, babies are cute for a reason: to make adults love and want to care for them. As a mother, I can hardly imagine euthanizing my child. At the same time, having gone through bouts of suffering on my own as a child and adult, and with the suffering of my children, I know how much one wants suffering to cease. As a youngster, one of my children required so much medical attention that he screamed when he saw anyone in white, and it took five adult males to hold him down for treatment.

    But, if my child were born with an uncurable condition that caused ongoing suffering until the child finally dies, what would I do? I have been fortunate in not having to find out.

    It would be far better if DNA testing were done before people married and before children were born to detect potential extreme health problems in advance. Better that the child not be conceived or, if conceived, not born. Already, if doctors detect conditions of the child in utero that indicate they can’t live after birth, the pregnancy is terminated.

    This is one that must be left up to the parents and doctors, not society at large, or religion.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 29, 2017 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      I absolutely agree with your penultimate paragraph.

      Apropos of that, there was a classic case here (NZ) where [some of] the disabled or their carers got co-opted or used as pawns by the pro-lifers. The New Zealand health department introduced free ante-natal screening in 2010. Some Downs parents (assisted or prompted by the usual pro-life suspects) tried to take the New Zealand Government to the International Criminal Court for genocide, presumably on the theory that Downs is a race. Presumably the ICC told them to get lost because I can’t seem to find any reports after 2012.

      My sympathy for the parents of the disabled comes to a screeching halt when they try to inflict the same misfortune on others.

      (I’m not suggesting that all Downs parents are like that, by any means).

      cr

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 30, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Unselfish parents will always place the needs of the child first.

      • Posted September 5, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        But parents are not so unselfish as is often assumed. Just consider how often a parent values a relationship with an abusive partner above the child’s well-being and so dooms the child to suffering.

  37. Diane G.
    Posted July 30, 2017 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    sub


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