Church of England: Allow Disabled Babies to Die
The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.Most chilling is the claim that “The church stressed that it was not saying some lives were not worth living.”
Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but 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.
The shocking new policy from the church has caused outrage among the disabled.
A spokeswoman for the UK Disabled People’s Council, which represents tens of thousands of members in 140 different organisations, said: “How can the Church of England say that Christian compassion includes killing of disabled babies either through the withdrawing or withholding of treatment or by active euthanasia?
“It is not for doctors or indeed anyone else to determine whether a baby’s life is worthwhile simply on the grounds of impairment or health condition.”
The church’s surprise call comes just a week after the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology sparked fury by calling for a debate on the mercy killing of disabled infants.
But it has been made in a carefully thought out official Church of England paper written by Bishop Butler for a public inquiry into the ethical issues surrounding the care of long premature or desperately ill newborn babies.
The inquiry, by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, began two years ago and its findings are due to be published in London - but the church’s contribution to the debate has been leaked in advance.
The Nuffield Council, an independent body which issues ethical guidelines for doctors, began the inquiry to take account of scientific advances which mean increasingly disabled and premature babies can technically be kept alive.
The church stressed that it was not saying some lives were not worth living, but said there were “strong proportionate reasons” for “overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained”.
The bishop’s submission continued: “There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the ‘rule’ that life should inevitably be preserved.
“Disproportionate treatment for the sake of prolonging life is an example of this.”
The church said it would support the potentially fatal withdrawal of treatment only if all alternatives had been considered, “so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance.”
Yet the Revd Butler’s submission makes clear that there are a wide range of acceptable reasons to withdraw care from a child - with the cost of the care among the considerations.
“Great caution should be exercised in bringing questions of cost into the equation when considering what treatment might be provided,” he wrote.
“The principle of justice inevitably means that the potential cost of treatment itself, the longer term costs of health care and education and opportunity cost to the NHS in terms of saving other lives have to be considered.”
UK Disabled Peoples Council spokeswoman Simone Aspis said the group’s members were appalled that the Church was joining doctors in calling for disabled babies to be left to die.
“It appears that the whole debate on whether disabled babies are worth keeping alive is being dominated by professionals and religious people without any consultation with disabled people,” she said.
Out of babies born at just 22 weeks of pregnancy or less, 98 per cent currently die. In Holland babies born before 25 weeks are not given medial treatment.
But of course, that’s exactly what the Church of England is saying.
Intellectual corruption, in other words, generally accompanies moral corruption.