Defending the publication in the
Journal of Medical Ethics
(November 2011) of an article arguing thecase for infanticide, editor Julian Savulescu
pointed out that the ideas in it were ‘largely not new’.
Thisis true: the widely published philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer made the case for infanticide in1985 in
Should the Baby Live?
(with Helga Kuhse), and in
Rethinking Life and Death
Rethinking Peter Singer: A Christian Critique
(Ed. Gordon Preece, Melbourne: IVP, 2002) has a chapter,by Sydney theologian and ethicist Andrew Sloane ,
‘Singer, preference utilitarianism and infanticide’,
which specifically addresses the assumptions and weaknesses of the general ethical theory on which
s defence of infanticide rests.
Sloane concludes that Singer’s
“preference utilitarianism suffers
from fatal philosophical flaws which justify its rejection; that therefore his views on infanticide should
I would encourage you to read this chapter (indeed the whole book) for yourself, buthere is a much abridged version:Peter Singer
argument that defective newborns do not have a right to life, and so may be killed(painlessly) in certain circumstances, is a serious challenge to the traditional commitment to infantsas vulnerable beings entitled to protection and respectful treatment, whether they are defective ornot.
Singer’s views on infanticide are a specific
application of his ethical theory,
Singer’s arguments for infanticide
Singer believes that parents should have the option of openly and painlessly killing their newborns,say, by lethal injection, if they decide that they do not want them for any reason. He recognises thatthis idea conflicts with deep-seated moral intuitions. However, he believes that we should reject suchintuitions as unjustified vestiges of a crumbling ethical tradition.He offers two main reasons for his view: 1) that an infant is not a
, and 2) that theconsequences of killing that infant may be better than the consequences of not killing her, and soinfanticide is a permissible, or even the right, action.