A Dutch court has ruled that the life of a severely handicapped girl was not worth living and has ordered a hospital responsible for her care to pay compensation to the family because she was born. The “wrongful life” claim was the first of its kind in the Netherlands.
Dr. Alexander von Schmid, philosopher and ethics instructor at Rotterdam Business School, agreed with the ruling.
“If a baby is denied contact with other human beings, it will never become a real human being,” von Schmid told Radio Netherlands. “So for me, the starting point of human life is not the conception but the moment at which a baby enters relationships with other human beings. Usually this process starts on the day of birth.”
Mirjam den Boer, director of a crisis pregnancy care center, argued, “Pregnant women already experience interaction with their unborn children,” adding that religion should be considered in such a decision.
“It is well known that many women who were pro-abortion because they thought, ‘It’s my body. I have the right to decide not to have a child’ change their values when they are pregnant,” she told Radio Netherlands. “Then they feel it’s their child and they have a relationship with the child and they feel responsible for the child.”
But von Schmid disagreed, claiming, “You can never mix religious arguments in legal or ethical debates in society. You don’t need religion to see that, for example, murdering your neighbor is really bad. You don’t need religion to justify that it is a crime, that it is bad for society.”
But what if your neighbor is a severely handicapped little girl? And what if a court has ruled that child should never have been born and a hospital should be faulted for delivering the baby and giving her the best medical attention possible? If her parents chose to murder her, how could they be faulted for killing a “wrongful life?” Wouldn’t they just be righting a wrong?
Von Schmid isn’t just willing but has already fallen headlong down a slippery slope.
At the heart of this issue aside from mankind’s devious attempt to play God is the question of an individual’s worth. What makes a person worthy of living? Is it one’s ability to become a productive member of society? Is it intelligence or character? Is it the level of pain a person struggles with?
Imagine you are having dinner with your family when, all of a sudden, your father gasps for air and clutches his chest. Filled with fear, you rush to the phone and dial 9-1-1. You quickly explain to the operator that your father is having a heart attack and beg for an ambulance to come. The operator tries to calm you down, asking for your father’s symptoms and your address. And then she asks, ‘How much does he make?”
“Has he been a good husband, a good father?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what that has to do with Please send an ambulance!”
“O.k. ma’am calm down. First we have to determine if he’s worth saving.”
Ridiculous, isn’t it? Why?
Life is never about the person, their characteristics or relationships. Rather, life is given to a person. The Creator bestows life upon all human beings, which is why every person’s life has intrinsic and unalterable value. This reality is what propelled hundreds of New York City firefighters not only to enter the World Trade Center on 9/11, but sacrifice their lives to save others. A Dutch court that views a severely handicapped child as a “wrongful life” has disregarded the value of that life but it has not altered it.