Throughout the interview, Singer repeatedly referred to a disabled infant as “it.”
Singer was speaking on the “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” broadcast on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and Philadelphia’s NewsTalk 990 AM.
The Princeton professor is known for his controversial views on abortion and infanticide. He essentially argues the right to life is related to a being’s capacity for intelligence and to hold life preferences, which in turn is directly related to a capacity to feel and comprehend pain and pleasure.
Klein’s interview with Singer started out on the topic of the professor’s new book about charity, “The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.”
The conversation turned to the issue of terminating disabled infants when Klein asked whether the Singer believes health-care rationing under Obamacare will become more prevalent.
Singer told Klein rationing is already happening, explaining doctors and hospitals routinely make decisions based on costs.
“It’s different in the U.S. system, in a way, because it doesn’t do this overtly; maybe it doesn’t do it as much. And the result is it spends about twice as much on health care as some other countries for very little extra benefit in terms of the outcome.”
Klein quoted from a section of Singer’s 1993 treatise “Practical Ethics,” titled “Taking Life: Humans.”
In the section, Singer argued for the morality of “non-voluntary euthanasia” for human beings not capable of understanding the choice between life and death, including “severely disabled infants, and people who through accident, illness, or old age have permanently lost the capacity to understand the issue involved.”
For Singer, the wrongness of killing a human being is not based on the fact that the individual is alive and human. Instead, Singer argued it is “characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference.”
Asked whether he envisions denying treatment to disabled infants to become more common in the U.S. under the new health-care law, Singer replied: “It does happen. Not necessarily because of costs.”
If an infant is born with a massive hemorrhage in the brain that means it will be so severely disabled that if the infant lives it will never even be able to recognize its mother, it won’t be able to interact with any other human being, it will just lie there in the bed and you could feed it but that’s all that will happen, doctors will turn off the respirator that is keeping that infant alive.
I don’t know whether they are influenced by reducing costs. Probably they are just influenced by the fact that this will be a terrible burden for the parents to look after, and there will be no quality of life for the child.
So we are already taking steps that quite knowingly and intentionally are ending the lives of severely disabled infants.
And I think we ought to be more open in recognizing that this happens.
Klein followed up by asking whether the killing of severely disabled infants should be institutionalized to reduce health-care costs.
Asked Klein: “I know that it happens and it happens certainly if the family gives consent. But do you think in the future in order to ensure a more fair rationing of health-care and health-care costs, that it should actually be instituted more? The killing of severely disabled babies?”
Singer responded such a plan would be “quite reasonable” if it saved money that can be used for better purposes. He contended that most people would say they don’t want their premiums to be higher “so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.”
Singer’s full response:
I think if you had a health-care system in which governments were trying to say, “Look, there are some things that don’t provide enough benefits given the costs of those treatments. And if we didn’t do them we would be able to do a lot more good for other people who have better prospects,” then yes.
I think it would be reasonable for governments to say, “This treatment is not going to be provided on the national health service if it’s a country with a national health service. Or in the United States on Medicare or Medicade.”
And I think it will be reasonable for insurance companies also to say, “You know, we won’t insure you for this or we won’t insure you for this unless you are prepared to pay an extra premium, or perhaps they have a fund with lower premiums for people who don’t want to insure against that.”
Because I think most people, when they think about that, would say that’s quite reasonable. You know, I don’t want my health insurance premiums to be higher so that infants who can experience zero quality of life can have expensive treatments.