, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 164-193

Potential for personhood: A measure of life the severely defective newborn, legal implications of a social-medical dilemma

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Abstract

This paper asks for legislation that will remove criminal sanctions from good faith decisions by parents and physicians to allow severely defective newborns to die. In so doing it attempts to bring to satisfactory resolution conflicting points of view in the disciplines of moral philosophy, medicine, and law. This paper argues that euthanasia of severely defective newborns is morally justifiable and legally permissible within reasonable extensions of current interpretations of the Federal Constitution by the Supreme Court. It describes the medical dilemma, evaluates the moral issues involved, and delineates possible legal alternatives.

Claire Thomas is on the faculty of the University of Washington Women Studies Program and is an adjunct professor at Central Washington University.