How to write an objection,

thinking

Go read this story about Peter Singer..

This story has been going around for a while.. more or less, Peter Singer is applying utilitarian ideas to medical care for special needs kids.  I have several friends who are parents of special needs kids, and they found his ideas offensive — and I can see why.  Below is my response to a facebook post…

The reason I posted it here is because it’s a good example of how to respond to a set of ideas you disagree with…

Well, as an ethicist myself, I’ll elaborate a bit — BUT, please understand, that I don’t agree with Singer on this topic. I tend to agree with him on other things (animals have rights, we have an obligation to do everything we can do to prevent suffering due to a lack of resources).

Singer is a utilitarian, which means that the right action is the action which promotes the most good, or the most relief of pain and suffering. We can talk more about that if you’d like — I can explain it in all kinds of ways… but, the overall thing is to consider the pains and pleasures of all persons impacted and do the thing that maximizes pleasure over pain.

So, Singer’s basic argument about infanticide is that infants, especially those with special needs, consume a lot of resources and provide very little to society in terms of contributions to the greater good.

He may also see special needs kids with cognitive challenges as not being capable of being full persons — because of their less than average cognition. As a result, spending resources on them means that resources aren’t being spent where the net result will be more happiness…

I also think he’s wrong — for a variety of reasons. For the most part, I see that families of special needs kids learn a lot about compassion, humanity, and humility because they care for special needs kids… and, that’s presuming that the kids themselves make NO contributions to overall well-being.

I’ve also seen, mostly thanks to my friends who are moms of Ds kids that the kids themselves experience a lot of happiness, and their interaction with others makes those others happy as well.

Finally, I disagree with utilitarianism — because the theory can require one person to sacrifice for the good of others– in this case, the person doing the sacrificing is the special needs child. That child can’t even consent to the sacrifice etc… and that makes it wrong…. although, consent isn’t required by utilitarianism.

I can see why some families of profoundly disabled infants may decide to decline treatment, and let nature take it’s course — that’s a highly personal choice. I can also understand why a family might decide to abort a similarly disabled fetus, because the child’s life would be short and quite painful. Again, that’s a highly personal choice and I couldn’t interfere with that one way or the other — unless and until I knew the family AND they asked my opinion.. then I’d talk with them about their reasons and support whatever they decided.

Finally, y’all should also know that — when Singer was a young man he advocated similar positions concerning the elderly — more or less, it was ‘when they get old, let them die comfortably, but don’t put resources into a person who may only get a few more months’… that was all well and good, until his own mother needed lots of nursing care, more medical care etc — and then he changed his tune.

I think Singer should do a bit of volunteering with groups that work with families of special needs kids. I think he’d change his mind…

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