Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


News Article : Euthanasia,2129559&dq=euthanasia&hl=en

This news article is from the Ottawa Citizen, a Canadian newspaper, from 1962 and is still relevant to this weeks ethical issues surrounding euthanasia. Suzanne Vandeput a 24-year-old woman was found guilty for murdering her 8-day-old baby. The baby was born with birth defects due to thalidomide poisoning. Thalidomide was a sedative drug used in the 1950’s until it was recalled in 1961, because it was found to cause birth defects. Suzanne’s baby was born without arms and deformed feet. Not only was Suzanne found guilty but also her husband, sister, mother and doctor were charged with complicity in the case. According to the article, the doctor gave barbiturates to the grandmother, and the mother administered them to the newborn.

I believe this news article shows the downside of euthanasia. When autonomy for the person losing their life is not accessible. This child had no choice or chance for survival in the world, with family members and doctors deciding what is the right decision for them. The prosecutor used the argument that other than her deformations the baby “was fit to live”.  However from the mother and doctor’s perspective the newborn’s malformations would have caused her grave suffering for her entire life and so the decision was made for her.  Hwang’s statement in “Rational suicide and the Disabled Individual” state that the disabled are able to make rational decisions when deciding to die, if this child were given the option to live for instead a few years rather than 8 days, the child would be able to decide if the emotional and physical pain was worth enduring in exchange for continuing her life.

I chose this article because it not only shows the downside to euthanasia it also shows how the responsibility falls on those who assisted in the euthanasia. The doctor took part in active euthanasia, as well as, non-voluntary euthanasia. This was done in Belgium, which now interestingly enough has legalized euthanasia, but at this time it was illegal, hence why all the parties involved were charged. The article is also about how the jury, even though they found the defendants guilty, asks for leniency in charging them.  So, at the time even though it was illegal, the jury could see some justification for the defendants’ actions. Normally, I would understand a jury showing leniency for someone defending passive euthanasia, but for what the mother called “mercy killing” seems a little to compassionate for murder.  Non-voluntary euthanasia gives rise to problems surrounding euthanasia because it removes the patients self-determination, autonomy, and life without consent. In some cases, not saying this one, non-voluntary euthanasia is seen as morally ethical.

The prosecutor states, “ They never seriously examined the chances of the child in this world which struggles to alleviate suffering. You cannot acquit them”. I found this interesting because it shows that the prosecutor recognizes the child will have to go through hardships to stop the pain whether it is physical or emotional. So it seems the prosecutor values life over pain and suffering.

Some questions to consider…Would you support euthanasia of a newborn knowing that the rest of the child’s life would be full of pain? Should the Doctor be charged more harshly than the rest of the family members? Should the family members be blamed more harshly for not getting a second opinion? Should we support technology that enables pregnant woman to see if their child would be born with birth defects during the period that is still legal to have an abortion?


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