Infanticide and the Value of Life

Infanticide and the Value of Life

Infanticide and the Value of Life

Infanticide and the Value of Life

Synopsis

Examines the ethics of putting to death those infants who are born with such severe illness or physical debilitation as to be in consequence of incognition, extreme pain, meaningless existence, or little expectancy for life.

Excerpt

Infanticide, for the purposes of the present volume, may be defined as the wilful destruction of an infant through exposure, starvation, strangulation, smothering, poisoning, or through the use of some lethal instrument or weapon. It is also useful to distinguish between malevolent and benevolent infanticide, where the latter is understood to be an act whose purpose is to benefit or help, or at least not to injure, the one who dies. This book, in the main, is devoted to the question of benevolent infanticide. Its primary purpose is to understand what conditions, if any, warrant allowing or inducing the death of a seriously defective infant. More generally, the debate is concerned with two questions: What are the limits of the value of life? And what moral, legal, or other kinds of protection should be provided for the most helpless and vulnerable of all human beings?

The book is divided into four parts. Part One is devoted to religioethical questions.Joseph Fletcher discusses the relationship of suicide, allocide (proxy suicide), euthanasia, and infanticide.He argues that abortion and infanticide can be justified when the consequence is that the good gained outweighs the evil—that neither abortion nor infanticide is as such immoral. Immanuel Jakobovits, on the other hand, maintains that all life has intrinsic, absolute, and infinite value; that a physically or mentally deficient human being has exactly the same value as any com-

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