Decisions About Handicapped Newborns

Values and Procedures
  • Diana E. Axelsen
Chapter
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedicine, Ethics, and Society book series (CIBES)

Abstract

Margaret Mead, in her autobiographical Blackberry Winter, commented, “There is hope, I believe, in seeing the human adventure as a whole and in the shared trust that knowledge about mankind, sought in reverence for life, can bring life.” The scientific investigation of human reproduction has raised serious questions about whether our advancing knowledge is in fact encouraging reverence for life. New technology in the areas of prenatal screeening and abortion has led to questions concerning the morality of ending the lives of the unborn when handicaps are detected. The availability of more life-preserving technology has led to the question of whether its use for handicapped infants is always morally appropriate. In focusing on decision-making concerning handicapped newborns, I would like to use as a background Margaret Mead’s suggestion that we view the human adventure as a whole. Thus, we shall raise specific issues within the context of general ethical analysis of scientific knowledge and its applications.

Keywords

Stein Clarification Phenylketonuria 

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References

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    Much can be learned about the integration of reverence for life into every aspect of human activity, through study of the world views of Native Americans. For example, David Villasenor offers the following description of attitudes toward hunting: The success of the truly sincere hunter is legendary among the American Indians. Guided by the unseen force, he often went directly to his prey, but also he would utter a silent prayer before releasing the fatal arrow, saying: “Forgive me little brother, but I take your life in order to preserve life as I in turn will be taken.” But never did he kill more than for his own need, or the need of his people. To understand such accounts fully, however, it is important to study them within the context of the entire cosmology and ceremonial life of Native Americans. Villasenor, D., Tapestries in Sand: The Spirit of Indian Sandpainting, Naturegraph, Healdsburg, CA, 1963, p. 83.Google Scholar
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    I am indebted to Dr. Mary Harris, former director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, for providing information on the composition of NIH advisory boards and on legislation in the area of genetic diseases.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana E. Axelsen

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