England’s prestigious and influential Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recommended that babies born before twenty-two weeks be given no special treatment to save their lives. Claiming to have the “best interests” of these babies at heart, the Council stated — and read this carefully: “We view [the baby’s] interests in living or dying, or in avoiding an ‘intolerable’ life… as more important than the interests that others may have in any significant decisions made about him or her” — like parents, I guess. If babies are born after twenty-two weeks, the Council said, intensive care should be given only if both doctors and parents agree on it.
This is frightening enough. But what’s even more frightening are some of the factors that went into this decision.
As reported on our blog, The Point, organizations around England weighed in to help the Council develop these recommendations. One of those organizations was the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, who called for “active euthanasia” of disabled babies.
Then the Church of England entered the fray. But if you thought that they got involved to speak up for the lives of the defenseless, you’d be wrong. Instead, they backed up the obstetricians and gynecologists — the ones who were saying that a disabled and painful life was not worth living. Although it didn’t actually advocate euthanasia, the church’s statement did call for the withholding of treatment for premature babies “in some circumstances… knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death.”
Here we have a chilling close-up view of how far the culture of death has advanced. To whom should human life be more sacred than to the Church and to the medical community? But in this case both have turned their backs on the human lives most in need of protection. Of course they claim to be doing this in the “best interests” of the infants and their families. But if these guidelines are officially adopted, just wait until a case comes up in which the child could survive with treatment, and the parents want that treatment. I guarantee you we’ll be informed that death rather than disability is in the child’s “best interest.”
In fact, we don’t have to wait. Look at the case of Charlotte Wyatt, born premature and disabled in Portsmouth, England. Her parents were forced to wage a major battle against the doctors for her life. Charlotte is now three, and the media uses words like tragic to refer to her case — despite the fact that, though disabled, she’s still alive. A good sign of where the media’s priorities are, isn’t it? Just as with Terri Schiavo, the disabled life is seen as inconvenient to others and so not worth living.
But this is not about convenience, not about what’s easy or painless. It is about the sacredness and the dignity of human life made in the image of God. That the Anglican Church has discarded that truth should concern us all profoundly because if we can’t trust [Christians] to hold human life sacred, who can we trust? And don’t just write this off as, “Well, it’s the Brits.” So often what happens in England soon finds its way here.