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Treating or Terminating: The Dilemma of Impaired Infants and the Right to Be Human

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Aiding the death of infants is a much disputed controversy in healthcare. H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. provides an ethical view that there is a moral duty not to treat an impaired infant when this will only prolong a painful life or would only lead to a painful death. It is these individuals, like Engelhardt, who must defend this position against groups who consider that we have the ability to prolong the lives of impaired infants, thus we are obligated to do so.
Infanticide is associated with aiding the death of an infant and infant euthanasia. Jim Holt, contributing author for the New York Times, writes that, “Infanticide is the deliberate killing of newborns with the consent of the parents and society. This concept has been common throughout most of history. In some cultures it served as a form of birth control when food supplies were limited. In others, it was a way of getting rid of malformed offspring. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all condemned infanticide as murder holding that only God has the right to take innocent human life. Consequently, the practice has long been outlawed in every Western nation.” (Euthanasia).
The case study from “Mercy Killing in the Newborn Nursery,” Sara T. Fry and Robert M. Veatch provide an example of a situation where the duty not to treat is evident:
…The infant had been born with anencephaly, or lack of cranial development. The infant’s skull was an open sore that the nurses packed and layered with gauze to give his face a round appearance. Because of lack of cerebral hemispheres, the infant was incapable of any conscious activity. After his birth, the infant was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and placed in a bassinet. He was reported to be kicking and breathing, and his ...


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...and can easily be abused when over-interpreted.

Works Cited
Engelhardt Jr., H. Tristram. “Ethical Issues in Aiding the Death of Young Children.” Intervention and Reflection Basic Issues in Medical Ethics. 8th ed. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008.

Marker and Hamlon. “Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions.” International Task Force. 2009. .

Braddock and Tonelli. “Physician-Assisted Suicide.” Ethics in Medicine University of Washington Medical School. 2008. .

Holt, Jim. “Euthansia for Babies?” New York Times. 2005. .
Jaquier, Monica. “Frequently Asked Questions about Anencephaly.” 2009. .

Fry and Veatch. “Mercy Killing in the Newborn Nursery.” Case Studies in Nursing Ethics. 2nd ed. Jones and Bartlett, 2000.


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