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Dr. Robert George gave a lecture Monday night at St. Thomas More Church in New York City, entitled “ Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality In Crisis .” By way of showing the marked differences between understanding life-issues from utilitarian consequentialism and from natural law, Dr. George had the audience imagine a hypothetical scenario in which one’s exceptionally gifted young daughter, destined to make innumerable societal contributions, is in need of a liver transplant. Her’s being a rare blood type, the only available liver was possessed by a mentally disabled girl across town. From utility, it would indeed make sense to have the liver taken from the disabled and given to the gifted, considering the talented girl’s capacity for greatness versus the disabled girl’s incapacity for even normal human flourishing, added to the inconvenience she imposes on her caretakers. From natural law, the proposition is of course morally reprehensible. The point was only to show the repugnant result of reducing personhood to functionality. But this hypothetical, extreme as it sounds, is not far from reality.

At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a couple’s mentally disabled child is in fact being denied a kidney transplant on nearly the same grounds. The representing doctor of the nephrology department claims that the child is not eligible “because of her quality of life,” while the social worker reminded the parents of the lasting inconveniences of caring for an older disabled person. Elizabeth Scalia , joining “team Amilia,” a group advocating the parents’ demand for the procedure, comments: “Assessing people as units is evil . . . Amelia’s life is the life she has. She’s entitled to it.”

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