Steven Bainbridge checks in from post-Christian Europe:
A recent report from the UK’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Critical care decisions in fetal and neonatal medicine: ethical issues, concludes that “there are some circumstances in which imposing or continuing treatments to sustain a newborn baby’s life results in a level of irremediable suffering such that there is no ethical obligation to act in order to preserve that life.” Accordingly, the Council opines that physicians ethically may withhold or withdraw treatment from such infants. Indeed, while the Council claims not to accept active euthanasia as ethical, it invokes the principle of double effect to justify the use of “potentially life-shortening but pain-relieving treatments.”
Given the trends in Western society towards acceptance of abortion and euthanasia, one is no longer surprised when a principally secular ethical body reaches such a conclusion. The attitude of the Church of England came as something of a surprise, however, at least to observers outside the Anglican sphere.
The Daily Mail recently reported that “a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die. And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.” (Bishop Butler’s full submission to the Nuffield Council has now been released and is available here.)
In suggesting that some children be left “to die,” Bishop Butler broke with 2000-plus years of Judeo-Christian ethics.
And that usually works out well in Europe, huh?