Saturday, June 02, 2007

Coren and Gifford-Jones Debate Life

There was a revealing debate in the Toronto Sun Thursday aboout the fate of cojoined twins Tatiana and Krista Hogan-Simms. Michael Coren and Dr Kathy Gifford-Jones both answer the question "Do they deserve to be born?" Gifford-Jones says No, arguing the pro-choice?/euthanasia?/eugenics?/death? position that they should never have been born using a basic quality of life argument:

Reports claim that Felicia Hogan-Simms [the mother] was advised by doctors that her pregnancy could be terminated, but she refused. I assume that she considers life of any kind sacred, and abortion never an option.

What a tragic life awaits the twins. For as long as they live they will be unable to care for themselves or lead a normal active life. It's hard to comprehend a parent who would want such a tragic pregnancy to continue. Nature in this case has created a catastrophe. Why compound the mistake by subjecting these twins to this fate?


Hogan-Simms also believes "the girls were born for a purpose to teach people about tolerance; that it's OK to be different." But the point is, how much different? Unless there's a cataclysmic change in human nature, she has destined her girls to be stared at as a freak of nature as long as they live.

They will never walk, joined at the head in such an abnormal position. Physically they are destined for ill health, lying on their backs forever. They will become obese and develop the myriad of diseases that accompany this problem. Their lives will be a living hell.


Is there anyone among us who would want to be born this way or willing to trade places with these conjoined twins? Hogan-Simms should not have been allowed to make the ultimate decision. I have in the past always cast a jaundiced eye on committee decisions, but I like to believe in this instance an ethics committee would have seen the logic of terminating this pregnancy.

In summary, Ms. Gifford doesn't believe their lives meet her standards ('their lives will be a living hell'), so they should have been done away with either inutero or shortly after they were born. But her article includes two serious warnings about what can happen when you use a quality of life yardstick.

She says their life is not worth living in part because, "They will become obese and develop the myriad of diseases that accompany this problem." I wonder if my life still qualifies as livable after the few extra pounds I put on over the winter! Quality of life is a very subjective yardstick that can be used to eliminate almost anyone deemed undesirable.

Gifford also said the mother should not have been allowed to make the decision about wether or not to abort her child. I'm going to hope that most 'pro-choice' people will disagree with her position advocating forced abortions. Still her position reveals a lot about the upcoming euthanasia debate, the right to die will quickly become an obligation to die for those deemed unworthy.

Coren argues that the children had a fundamental right to be born because human life is inherently valuable:

And this surely is the point. Objective quality. If we are subjective and make our own value judgments we might as well wipe out all sorts of people. Or we could simply grow up, develop our compassion and intelligence and realize that existence is a sufficient contribution in itself.

There is an absolute that we have to tackle. Life is either sacred or it is not. If it is, preserve it at all costs. If it is not, we might as well destroy it at will. It is terribly expensive to keep the sick alive and wholly impractical to prolong the life of an ill person who will die anyway.

No civilized person or society, however, considers expense and practicality to be more important than goodness and humanity. If it did, it would immediately wipe out, for example, drug addicts, the homeless and people with AIDS.

Tatiana and Krista will be loved and, important this, will love back. They will smile, laugh, cry, be sad and happy, sometimes frightened, sometimes excited. Just be. Which is quite enough. And God forgive anyone who awards themselves the right to decide who may be and who may not.

So that's the debate in a nutshell. One group of people believes life is valued based on society's subjective standards, the other group believes life is valuable because it is sacred and that every human life matters simply by virtue of its existence. Both sides will use the language of compassion, but only the pro-life arguments avoids the danger of letting society make an arbitrary choice about which lives have value and which don't.

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