“Professor, do your homework,” disability group tells Singer


Utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer has often come under fire for his views on infanticide from pro-life groups. But after a recent radio interview, he was sternly rebuked by a US government agency, the National Council on Disability.

Professor Singer was promoting his book, The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically, on Aaron Klein Investigative Radio, a show broadcast in New York and Philadelphia.

Klein elicited from Singer the claim that government-funded health care should include rationing and that we should acknowledge the necessity of “intentionally ending the lives of severely disabled infants.”

This, says the NCD, is “a return to eugenics”.

Singer went on to say, “I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”

Should severely disabled infants be killed to reduce health-care costs? Singer did not respond directly, but he said that caring for them should not necessarily be covered by a national health service.

[If] “you had a health-care system in which governments were trying to say, ‘Look, there are some things that don’t provide enough benefits given the costs of those treatments. And if we didn’t do them we would be able to do a lot more good for other people who have better prospects,’ then yes, I think it would be reasonable for governments to say, ‘This treatment is not going to be provided on the national health service if it’s a country with a national health service. Or in the United States on Medicare or Medicaid.’”

This outraged the NDC.

In contrast to Singer’s ivory tower speculations, the United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that "society's accumulated myths and fears about disability are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment." … Though it might surprise Singer and those with limited imaginations, even people with disabilities who encounter obstacles, prejudice, and discrimination, derive satisfaction and pleasure from their lives…

NCD categorically rejects any calculus that assumes to ascribe a measurable, immutable quality of life to another human being – disabled or not. There are simply too many variables to consider in making “quality of life” assumptions. Such conjecture should be left in the classroom alongside brainteasers about moving trains and traveling at the speed of light.

The NDC concludes, “In short, we offer this simple but indispensable advice: “Professor, do your homework.”




MORE ON THESE TOPICS | disability, infanticide, Peter Singer

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