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Viability of newborns

02 August 2020
2 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 8


George F Winter weighs up the ethics surrounding newborn resuscitation at 22-weeks' gestational age

Should we have on-call philosophers in midwifery? Philippa Foot (1920–2010) suggested that just as we summon a plumber to fix a leaking tap, a ‘jobbing philosopher’ could be called when ethical issues show signs of getting out of hand (Foot, 1986).

But philosophers think differently about many things. For example, Professor Peter Singer's views may be inferred from the title of the fourth chapter of his book ‘Practical ethics’ (Singer, 1979) – ‘What's wrong with killing?’ – the last sentence of which contends that ‘the life of a being that has no conscious experiences is of no intrinsic value.’ Arguably, this echoes the views expressed in the book ‘Release and Destruction of Lives Not Worth Living’ published in 1920 by Alfred Hoche and Rudolf Binding – professors of medicine and law, respectively – who asserted that the right to live ‘must be earned and justified, not dogmatically assumed’ (Proctor, 1988).

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