Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Infanticide should be legal, Oxford experts say

, 29 Feb 2012

A group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued that killing young babies is no different from abortion, and should be allowed even when there is nothing physically wrong with the child.

Oxford University has argued that killing young babies is no different from abortion
Oxford University has argued that killing young babies is no different from abortion Photo: Alamy
However, the journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, has defended his decision, saying it was the job of such publications to air all sides of all arguments – however radical.
Two former Oxford associates of his, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, argued that there was no moral difference between abortion and killing babies in their article, After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?
They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”.
“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”
As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.
The authors therefore concluded that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.
They also argued that parents should be able to have the baby killed if it turned out to be disabled without their knowing before birth, for example citing that “only the 64% of Down's syndrome cases” in Europe are diagnosed by prenatal testing”.
Once such children were born there was “no choice for the parents but to keep the child”, they wrote.
“To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
However, they did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.
They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide” to “emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus”.
Both Minerva and Giubilini know Prof Savulescu through Oxford.
Minerva was a research associate at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics until last June, when she moved to the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Melbourne University.
Giubilini, a former Cambridge University philosophy post-graduate, gave a talk in January at the Oxford Martin School – of which Prof Savulescu is also director – titled What is the problem with euthanasia.
He too has gone on to Melbourne, although to the city’s Monash University.
Prof Savulescu worked at both univerisities before moving to Oxford in 2002.
Defending the decision to publish, Prof Savulescu, saying that arguments in favour of infanticide were “largely not new”.
What Minerva and Giubilini did was apply these arguments “in consideration of maternal and family interests”.
While accepting that many people would disagree with their arguments, he said: “the goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”
He pointed out that the authors had received death threats, and called those who made abusive and threatening posts “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he added: “This "debate" has been example an example of "witch ethics" - a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her.
"It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

Friday, 24 February 2012

INFANTICIDE claimed: Australia: Fourth Australian inquest opens in 1980 dingo-baby mystery

A coroner on Friday opened Australia’s fourth inquest into the most notorious and bitterly controversial legal drama in the nation’s history: the 1980 death of a 9-week-old baby whose parents say was taken by a dingo from her tent in the Australian Outback.
Azaria Chamberlain’s mother, Lindy, was convicted and later cleared of murdering her and has always maintained that a wild dog took the baby. She and her ex-husband, Michael Chamberlain, are hoping fresh evidence they have gathered about dingo attacks on children will convince Northern Territory coroner Elizabeth Morris and end relentless speculation that has followed them for 32 years.
Anne Lade, a former police officer hired by the court to investigate the case, told a packed courtroom that in the years since Azaria disappeared, there have been numerous dingo attacks on humans, some of them fatal. Rex Wild, a lawyer assisting the coroner, described several of the attacks and said he believed the evidence showed that a dingo could have been responsible for Azaria’s death.
“Although it (a dingo killing a child) may have been regarded as unlikely in 1980 ... it shouldn’t be by 2011-12,” he said. “With the additional evidence in my submission, your honour should accept on the balance of probabilities that the dingo theory is the correct one.”
Ms. Morris adjourned the hearing without issuing a decision, and did not say when she would release her findings.
Azaria’s death certificate still lists her cause of death as “unknown.” The Chamberlains say they want to set the record straight on behalf of their daughter.
“It gives me hope this time that Australians will finally be warned and realize that dingoes are a dangerous animal,” Ms. Chamberlain said outside the courthouse in the Northern Territory capital, Darwin. “I also hope that this will give a final finding which closes the inquest into my daughter’s death, which so far has been standing open and unfinished.”
Azaria vanished from her tent in the Outback on Aug. 17, 1980, during a family vacation to Ayers Rock, the giant red monolith now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru. Fellow campers told police they heard a low growl followed by a baby’s cry shortly before Ms. Chamberlain – who had been making dinner at a nearby barbecue area – went to check on her daughter.
Ms. Chamberlain said she saw a dingo run from the tent and disappear into the darkness. There were dingo prints outside the tent, and spots of blood on the bedding inside. Upon seeing Azaria’s empty bassinet, Ms. Chamberlain screamed, “The dingo’s got my baby!” – a line made famous by the Meryl Streep movie, A Cry in the Dark, based on the case.
Azaria’s body was never found, though her torn and bloodied jumpsuit turned up in the surrounding desert.
Officials, doubtful that a dingo was strong enough to drag away a baby, charged Ms. Chamberlain with murder. Prosecutors said she slit Azaria’s throat in the family car – which initial forensic tests said was splashed with baby’s blood – and buried her in the desert. Ms. Chamberlain was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Years later, more sophisticated tests found that the “blood” in the car was a combination of milk and a chemical sprayed during manufacture. Three years into Ms. Chamberlain’s prison sentence, a jacket Azaria had been wearing was found by chance near a dingo den. Ms. Chamberlain was released from prison and her conviction was overturned.
Still, three separate coroner’s inquests have failed to agree on a cause of death for Azaria. The last inquest, held in 1995, returned an inconclusive finding, with the coroner saying there was not enough evidence to prove a dingo was responsible.
Since then, the Chamberlains have gathered new evidence of around a dozen dingo attacks on children, three of them fatal, said their lawyer, Stuart Tipple. That evidence was presented to Ms. Morris for consideration at Friday’s inquest.
“When you actually look at what has already been given, and you consider the new evidence, we say you are compelled to make a finding that Azaria was taken by a dingo,” Mr. Tipple told The Associated Press.
In court, Michael Chamberlain fought back tears as he spoke of the nightmarish aftermath of his daughter’s death.
“Since the loss of Azaria I have had an abiding fear and paranoia about safety around dingoes,” he said. “They send a shudder up my spine. It is a hell I have to endure.”
Australians have followed the case closely since it began, and most have strong opinions. Although public support for Ms. Chamberlain has grown over the years, many still doubt that a dingo could have killed Azaria.
“I think that the people that don’t think for themselves aren’t ever going to be convinced, and it really doesn’t matter what you show them,” Mr. Tipple told the AP. “I could show them a video of the dingo taking the baby and it wouldn’t convince them – because they’ve made their mind up.”