Church of England says right to life for newborns not absolute – Russian Orthodox Church speaks against active euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies

The Church of England believes doctors should be given the right to kill some seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances.
admin | 15 November 2006

Moscow, November 15, Interfax – The deputy head of the Moscow
Patriarchate department for external church relations Rev. Vsevolod
Chaplin said that medical termination of newborn babies’ lives is
unacceptable provided they are capable of independent viability.

However, the advisability of artificial life-support may be questioned in some cases, he added.

‘Sometimes it is really questionable whether we should artificially
support the functioning of a baby born obviously incapable of life.
Christian common sense must be taken into account in such cases. We
should remember that the Lord will receive the baby’s soul with love,’
Rev. Vsevolod told Interfax on Wednesday.

These are his comments on the Church of England Bishop Tom Butler’s
recent saying that medical doctors should be given the right to
terminate lives of seriously disabled newborns.

At the same time he underscored that so-called active euthanasia, when
a human person capable of living without artificial life-support has
his life terminated, is ‘absolutely unacceptable.’

‘The church always hopes for a miracle,’ he added.

Rev. Vsevolod said that in his practice as a priest he baptized babies
‘practically doomed to die by their physicians. Yet, they have grown
absolutely healthy and enjoy the fullness of life making their parents

The Church of England believes doctors should be given the right to withhold treatment from some seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances, The Observer reported.

The view comes in a submission from the church to a British medical ethics committee looking at the implications of keeping severely premature babies alive through technological advances, the weekly newspaper said. The Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, was said to have written that “it may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death”.

Last week, Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for a debate on whether deliberate medical intervention to cause the death of severely disabled new-born babies should be legalised. The college said it did not necessarily favour the move — which prompted accusations of “social engineering” from disabled groups — but felt the issue should be discussed.

Its views were expressed in a similar submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which was set up two years ago and which is due to publish its finding later this week.

The Observer reported that the church, led by the head of the world’s

Anglicans Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, could not accept the view that the life of any baby is not worth living. But it added there were “strong proportionate reasons” for “overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained”, the weekly added. The high price of keeping very premature and sick babies alive with invasive medical treatments as well as the consequences for parents should also be taken into consideration, the bishop reportedly says.

“There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the ‘rule’ that life should inevitably be preserved,” the south London bishop is said to have written.

“Disproportionate treatment for the sake of prolonging life is an example of this.”

The church reportedly said it would only back withholding or withdrawing

treatment if all reasonable alternatives had been fully considered “so that the possibly lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance”.


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