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11 March 2013

Valuing Life Versus Inflicting Suffering

By Diana Hsieh

Here's a fascinating and horrifying story: "A surrogate's unimaginable dilemma." I wish that I could share a relevant tidbit, but alas, it's the kind of story that you just have to read from beginning to end... and it's very well-told.

(The story raises all kinds of thorny questions about abortion rights in the context of surrogacy, and I hope that someone submits a question on the topic to Philosophy in Action's queue.)

As a matter of morality, I think that to inflict a life of pain, suffering, and incapacity on a helpless infant is very wrong. The pregnancy could have been terminated when the abnormalities were discovered, and doing so would not have harmed any person or violated the rights of any person. That's because the fetus is not an independent person with rights or interests until born, as Ari Armstrong and I argued in our policy paper, The "Personhood" Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.

I value human life, deeply. I'm nothing but delighted by and supportive of people who value their future children while still in the womb. When a culture denies the value of human life -- as Nazi Germany did -- the results are horrifying.

Yet I cannot relate to people seek to "value life" by prolonging any form of existence by any means possible. Such people seem to value life in some kind of abstract or formalistic way, without regard for the kind of life lived, including the suffering inflicted by the attempts to sustain that life. That's not the way that a rational and responsible adult values life, in my view. It's emotional self-indulgence... or religious dogmatism... or duty ethics. Mostly, I think, it's nothing good.

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