There is a sense in which this is perhaps worse than abortion or assisted suicide. There's no illusion that the crying infant is anything less than human, yet he's forcibly starved. If intentionally starving someone you know is (a) alive, and (b) totally reliant upon you for food and water isn't murder, on what basis can we condemn the forcible starvation of the Jews during the Holocaust? What moral grounds distinguish those two actions?Despite significant advances during the 1960s in surgery, resuscitation methods, and intensive care, health professionals were deciding to let patients die every day. And these were not just the terminal, but also the very elderly and babies so horribly deformed and physically limited that no one could offer a prognosis of “a meaningful life” for them. Privately, doctors were saying, “Enough, let the poor thing die.” But it wasn’t until the 1970s that they began talking publicly about the reality of euthanasia.One reason for this was the “John Hopkins Case,” reported in 1973. After seeking some spiritual advice, the parents of an infant born with Down's syndrome and duodenal atresia, an intestinal blockage that can be repaired, decided that a mongoloid child was better dead and refused permission for corrective surgery. Fifteen days later the child died of starvation.
Most commentators were appalled by the simplistic standards of “deformity” and “suffering” applied in the case, and many disagreed with the parents’ decision. But such cases were not as rare as most people thought. In the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors reported that among 299 deaths in the special-care nursery of the Yale-New Haven Hospital between 1970 and 1972, forty-three -- 14 percent -- were infants with multiple birth defects to their bodies, hearts, and central nervous systems. In each case, doctors and parents had agreed that the chance the infant had for a “meaningful life” was either extremely poor or hopeless; treatment was ended.
As for the standard of “a meaningful life,” it's garbage. Or more specifically, it's not based on how happy those with Down Syndrome are, but on how uncomfortable Down syndrome makes the able-bodied. As Brown, Taylor, and Matthews explained in Down Syndrome Research and Practice:
As far as we are aware, no large study of the views of people living with Down syndrome about their quality of life has been conducted. Anecdotally, people with Down syndrome do not appear to consider their condition a source of suffering. Much of what effects quality of life for people with Down syndrome perhaps results from society's behaviour towards them rather than necessarily the condition itself.Anecdotal evidence supports the authors' conclusions. From the Times:
The sign carried by the little boy below says it all (h/t LifeNews):Sarah Itoh, a self-described “almost-eleven-and-a-half,” betrayed no trace of nervousness as she told a roomful of genetic counselors and obstetricians about herself one recent afternoon.
She likes to read, she said. Math used to be hard, but it is getting easier. She plays clarinet in her school band. She is a junior girl scout and an aunt, and she likes to organize, so her room is very clean. Last year, she won three medals in the Special Olympics.
“I am so lucky I get to do so many things,” she concluded. “I just want you to know, even though I have Down syndrome, it is O.K.”