We have discussed the Baby Joseph futile care case here. He is the baby who a Canadian hospital wanted to force off life support against the parents will and whose parents want a tracheotomy to help him live longer and at home. The impasse was resolved when the parents were able to move him to a St. Louis hospital.
Well, now Peter Singer has come out against the parents. From his column in the NY Daily News calling continuing care of Joseph “Deeply Misguided: “
Joseph’s parents, who have previously had another child who died from the same disease, objected to the removal of the breathing tube. Instead they wanted an operation performed that would cut a hole in the child’s neck, so that a breathing tube could be inserted in it and kept permanently in place. Joseph’s doctors refused to do this. They acknowledged that the operation might prolong Joseph’s life, but said it would not improve his well-being. A Canadian tribunal agreed with the doctors, giving them permission to remove the breathing tube. Then Priests for Life, a Catholic -abortion and anti-euthanasia organization stepped in, chartering an air ambulance to fly Joseph from Canada to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, in St. Louis, which will perform the operation the parents requested.
“We Rescued Baby Joseph!” says a page on the Priests for Life website. The organization’s director, the Rev. Frank Pavone, says he has been told that it could cost as much as $150,000 for Joseph’s stay in the pediatric intensive care unit. That doesn’t include the cost of the aircraft, which would have added thousands more to the bill. Priests for Life is, of course, asking its supporters to donate to pay these costs.
Here’s the irony. According to the most rigorous charity evaluation agency in the country, GiveWell.org, you can save a child’s life for about $1,000. All you have to do is give the money to their top-rated charity, Village Reach, which delivers vaccines and other urgently needed medical supplies to rural areas in developing countries. If Priests for Life were really serious about saving lives, instead of “rescuing” Joseph so he can live another few months lying in bed, unable to experience the normal joys of childhood, let alone become an adult, they could have used the money they have raised to save 150 lives - most of them children who would have gone on to live healthy, happy lives for 50 years or more.
Yet, this is the same Peter Singer who says that parents should be able to have their disabled babies killed.
So, we see the real utilitarian agenda here. And we see the hollowness of Singer’s “preference” approach to utilitarian decision making. It isn’t parental empowerment. It isn’t family intimate decision making. Their “preferences” don’t matter in a futile care imposition. In other words, the consistent through line of Singer’s approaches is the death of disabled infants.
We don’t have to choose between caring for profoundly disabled individuals and helping children who can lead “healthy, happy lives.” In fact, such thinking reveals the profoundly bigoted heart that lurks within the passive prose of Singer’s utilitarian advocacy.