LETTER: Perils of Redefining the Ethics of Death

By Parrington, Dr John | The Independent (London, England), July 3, 2004 | Go to article overview
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LETTER: Perils of Redefining the Ethics of Death


Parrington, Dr John, The Independent (London, England)


Sir: You don't have to be religious or an anti-abortionist to be concerned about where Peter Singer's arguments are leading ("Some people are more equal than others", 1 July). Singer argues that it is as acceptable to kill disabled human babies as it is to kill a defective animal.

Disabled people were the first victims of Hitler's extermination policies. A decree of 18 August 1939 instructed that all children under the age of three with disabilities be killed by lethal injection or excessive doses of medication. What began with babies ended up with the murder of teenagers and adults for "defects" as varied as schizophrenia, depression, mental retardation, dwarfism, paralysis, epilepsy, sometimes even delinquency, perversion, alcoholism, and "anti-social behaviour". From such a starting point, the move to exterminate an entire "subhuman" race, as the Nazis viewed the Jews, wasn't such a dramatic leap.

Singer argues that his version of euthanasia is different from that which the Nazis espoused, which he says was driven by notions of racial purity. But Hitler himself justified the killing programme on the grounds that "those suffering from illnesses deemed to be incurable may be granted a mercy death".

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LETTER: Perils of Redefining the Ethics of Death
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