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Disability Rights Groups Want Princeton to Denounce Peter Singer’s Viewpoints on Euthanasia

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Not Dead Yet holds protest on Ivy League campus, calls for bioethics professor's resignation

Disability rights activists are calling on Princeton University to denounce recent statements by bioethics professor Peter Singer that promote the ending the lives of disabled infants through denial of health care.

Protestors from Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania and New Jersey centers for independent living, as well as groups representing parents of persons with disabilities, held a rally on the Princeton campus June 10, calling on the Ivy League school to address what they describe as Singer’s “hate speech” toward disabled people.

“Since about 1980, Singer has promoted public policy that would legalize the killing of disabled infants in the first month of life,” said Stephen Drake, Not Dead Yet’s research analyst and expert on Singer. “More recently, he has expanded his position in the context of health care rationing.”

In a radio interview in April, Singer said that under Obamacare, doctors and hospitals routinely make decisions based on costs—effectively healthcare rationing. He argued it is “reasonable” for government or private insurance companies to deny treatment to severely disabled babies.

In the FAQ section of his faculty webpage, Singer justified killing a newborn infant:


I use the term "person" to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.  

Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection – but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely. 

Not Dead Yet issued a petition to Princeton through change.org.

“We understand the importance of academic freedom,” said Alan Holdsworth of Not Dead Yet Pennsylvania. “But Princeton has a policy on ‘Respect for Others’ which ‘deplores expressions of hatred directed against any individual or group.’ If Singer’s comments about killing disabled babies don’t qualify as hatred toward a group, then I don’t know what does.”

Protesters are demanding that Princeton take four actions to address Singer’s comments:

• Call for Singer’s resignation.
• Publicly denounce Singer’s comments.
• Hire a bioethicist from the disability community in a comparable position to provide a platform for views that contrast with his.
• Create a disability policy program at Princeton to educate future leaders on an inclusive community.

Princeton issued a statement saying it is "strongly committed to ensuring the academic freedom of members of its community and to ensuring that the campus is open to a wide variety of views."
 

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