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Infanticide: An Ethical Battlefield

D Gareth Jones
S & CB 10 (1)
April 1998

Abstract

This article examines the historic and modern contexts of infanticide and its links with passive and active euthanasia, and with abortion. Current debate on the treatment or non-treatment of imperilled newborns, most commonly those suffering from Down’s syndrome or spina bifida, is the result of shifts in ethical perception brought about in part by technological advance and also by the focus of many in modern society on good health and normality. These have led to an ethic of perfectionism whereby infants are viewed as the property of parents, to be disposed of if they so choose. Arguments in favour of infanticide and those opposing it are presented and discussed. The Christian perspective proposed explores our valuation of human infants and the care and protection to be afforded to disabled newborns. Based on the belief that all are created in the image of God, it is suggested that all human beings should be valued irrespective of disease or disability. From this basis, the withholding or withdrawal of treatment may only be justified where a case can be made that the best interests of the debilitated infant will not be served by its continued provision.

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