Medical Ethics and The Broken Window Fallacy

Posted: February 29, 2012 by ShortTimer in "Civility", Eugenicists, Health care, John Holdren, Liberal Fascists, Science
Tags: ,

From the Journal of Medical Ethics:

After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

Alberto Giubilini1,2,
Francesca Minerva3,4

+ Author Affiliations

1Department of Philosophy, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
2Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
3Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
4Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

Correspondence to Dr Francesca Minerva, CAPPE, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; francesca.minerva AT

Contributors AG and FM contributed equally to the manuscript.

Received 25 November 2011
Revised 26 January 2012
Accepted 27 January 2012
Published Online First 23 February 2012


Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue 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.

And then it gets worse from there:

In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.

And the progressive eugenicist stupidity abounds:

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.

Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. 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. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.

Criminals have made concious decisions to forfeit their right to live by destroying others’ lives.   The argument that the state should not kill its own citizens is the best argument against capital punishment.  Neither is analagous to a newborn.  Fetuses where abortion is permitted are often also called into question, and for many, even embryonic stem cell research is considerd loathesome because it’s tampering with the beginnings of life.

Although fetuses and newborns are not persons, they are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’: that is, the point at which they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life.

It might be claimed that someone is harmed because she is prevented from becoming a person capable of appreciating her own being alive. Thus, for example, one might say that we would have been harmed if our mothers had chosen to have an abortion while they were pregnant with us7 or if they had killed us as soon as we were born. However, whereas you can benefit someone by bringing her into existence (if her life is worth living), it makes no sense to say that someone is harmed by being prevented from becoming an actual person. The reason is that, by virtue of our definition of the concept of ‘harm’ in the previous section, in order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm.

This is an ethicist arguing for the Broken Window Fallacy in human capital instead of financial capital.

If you smash the baker’s window, you haven’t harmed the tailor, since the suit the baker would have bought with money he now has to spend fixing the window simply never comes into being.  If you kill the non-person, who doesn’t become a person, then you haven’t done any harm… except for the potential person who never comes into being.  Therefore, you’ve done no harm.  And you’ve helped the glazier and Kermit Gosnell.

From the next paragraph:

If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.

The Broken Window Fallacy, with human capital.

The Blaze and HotAir also have pieces on this.  HotAir notes that the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu, went on to write this piece, lamenting:

What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.

You’re debating how to morally justify infanticide.  From a dispassionate, logical standpoint, you are arguing for the Broken Window Fallacy with regards to human beings, Julian.  Your argument on how to justify infanticide is that people aren’t people, and therefore can be killed.

Now on to the moral side of this.  From the article:

This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons.   Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.

Animals have more rights than infants, because they are “in the condition of attributing value to their own existence”.  So what about people suffering depression?  They aren’t attributing value to their existence, so can you kill them?  You aren’t depriving them of anything they don’t want.  Justified, right?

Our point here is that, although it is hard to exactly determine when a subject starts or ceases to be a ‘person’,

No it isn’t.

a necessary condition for a subject to have a right to X is that she is harmed by a decision to deprive her of X.

No it isn’t.

such a condition depends on the level of her mental development,6 which in turn determines whether or not she is a ‘person’.

Notes Tina Korbe at HotAir:

Once upon a time, abortion advocates would accuse pro-lifers of “slippery slope logic” when those pro-lifers suggested it was only a matter of time before someone would use the abortion advocates’ arguments to defend infanticide. According to Savulescu, that began to happen a long time ago — and it continues to happen today. Turns out, it is a slippery slope, after all. If humans don’t have a right to life from the moment of conception, when does the right to life kick in?

That, of course, is the point.  It’s the cry of eugenicists worldwide, and has been since the days of Malthus.  There are certain people who are unfit to live and therefore must be destroyed.  Obama’s science czar John Holdren believes the same thing.

The dutch have famously gone over to infanticide. From the original article:

In The Netherlands, for instance, the Groningen Protocol (2002) allows to actively terminate the life of ‘infants with a hopeless prognosis who experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering’.4

But there’s also a little difference between the “ethicists” argument that a non-actualized life can be destroyed since it isn’t a life, and an infant with a hopeless prognosis and unbearable suffering could be snuffed out because his whole existence would be pain and suffering until he rapidly dies anyway.  Which, taken to gothy extremes, simply would mean that no life is ever valuable.

But back to the original article:

Nonetheless, 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. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.

Where have I seen this before… oh yeah…

"This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too."

Maybe we shouldn’t be paying for health care.  Then Giubilini and Minerva’s state won’t have a compelling reason to exterminate the Je- they mean “conduct after-birth abortions on newborns who are not people in the relevant sense”.  Death panels indeed.

Why is this so familiar?  And why does it seem like we know where this comes from already?

In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be.

Since, after all, babies aren’t people.  If you kill them before they’re people, they’re not really people, so it’s not really murder.

Clicky. Perhaps best watched in German.

A few weeks back, I pointed out that some Marine scout snipers stole an SS flag to use as their own, intentionally depriving it of its old context.  The ideas behind the symbol were offensive, to such a degree that the Marines’ diametric opposition to the symbol’s old users and the SS’s ideals wasn’t enough to divorce the symbol completely from what it once was – hence the offense (in varying levels depending on how well one understood the Marine’s opposition to the old SS).

This is the reverse.  Couched in pseudo-intellectual bullshit, these “doctors” are taking the exact same moral and ethical route as genocidal Mathusian eugenicist Nazis have in the past, under the guise of modern medicine.  One stole a symbol from villainous owners to use as their own in combat against allies of the old symbols’ mindset, while these “doctors” have thrown away the symbols, but reach back to the same villainous mindset while trying to hide under the guise of modern medicine and respectability.  They take away all the “the Jew is not human” language, and change it to something the modern leftist can agree with, and suddenly the exact same things that actual Nazis were saying and doing – dehumanizing and destroying life – can be supported, advocated, and defended in the name of “liberal values”.

Editor Julian Savulescu’s moral he took from this:

What the response to this article reveals, through the microscope of the web, is the deep disorder of the modern world. Not that people would give arguments in favour of infanticide, but the deep opposition that exists now to liberal values and fanatical opposition to any kind of reasoned engagement.

Giving arguments in favor of infanticide is okay.  Arguments in favor of infanticide are “reasoned”.  Arguments in favor of infanticide are “liberal values”.  Yeah…

From a simple moral argument, these “doctors” are DEHUMANIZING infants so they can be killed.  They’ve used clever wordplay to justify their actions.  Dressing up any knee-jerk attacks by people who believe in life on people advocating actual baby-killing (remember when that used to be an epithet used against the right?) as “fanatical opposition” is absurd, and demonstrative of diseased, insular groupthink.

Going back to the “ethicists” argument:

Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.

Who ascribes that right to life?  Here the ethicist does.  Why?  Because there is no law but that which the ethicist has created in his own little twisted worldview.  I’ll take this worldview instead:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


Not to an ethicist, apparently, but to any other human being on the planet.  Do you have a right to exist?  Yes.  Why?  Because you exist.  Why do you exist?  Because you were created – whether by God, nature, or nature’s god, you are.  He is Who is, and created you, and now you are.  Or you were randomly created by the primordial ooze and you’re a random assembly of chemical reactions, either way, you still exist – and to say you have no right to exist, when the universe’s machinations clearly created you – and your very quest to understand your nature validates your existence – cogito ergo sum, etc.  To hold the “ethicists” statements true, no one ever understands the universe, and not understanding, then no one ever really has life, and therefore no one has a right to exist.  Welcome to nihilism, Donny.

Merely being human is itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.  The “ethicists” are fundamentally flawed in a myriad of ways, whether from the standpoint of human capital, morality, or even basic humanity.

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