Wednesday 25 February 2009

Discrimination in favour of physical beauty and economics are driving eugenics

Pope Benedict, speaking over the weekend to the assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, provides an interesting analysis of modern eugenics - an analysis which finds support in a paper in the latest edition of Quadrant magazine, the "leading general intellectual journal of ideas, literature, poetry and historical and political debate published in Australia", as the magazine describes itself.

Pope Benedict said:
" ... The disapproval of eugenics used with violence by a regime, as the fruit of the hatred of a race or group, is so rooted in consciences that it found a formal expression in the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights.' Despite this, there are appearing in our days troubling manifestations of this hateful practice, which present themselves with different traits. Certainly ideological and racist eugenics, which in the past humiliated man and provoked untold suffering, are not again being proposed. But a new mentality is insinuating itself that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity based on individual desire and individual rights. There is thus a tendency to privilege the capacities for work, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not held to be valuable ...

" ... It is necessary, on the contrary, to consolidate a culture of hospitality and love that concretely testifies to solidarity with those who suffer, razing the barriers that society often erects, discriminating against those who are disabled and affected by pathologies, or worse - selecting and rejecting in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection. If man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the first stage of development, that would mean that biotechnologies would surrender to the will of the stronger. Confidence in science cannot forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake."
Pope Benedict's thesis - that notions of physical perfection and beauty are factors driving medical killings of disabled babies - finds support in a paper entitled "Prenatal Diagnosis - Benefit or Betrayal" in the current edition of The Quadrant, by Dr Deirdre Therese Little, MBBS, DRANZCOG, FACRRM, the President of the organisation Obstetricians Who Respect the Hippocratic Oath. Dr Little writes:
"White pearls and white clothing, a genteel face softly made up, a thoughtful expression and fashionably controlled hair were the images chosen in 2000 to promote prenatal testing for 'Down Syndrome and other Chromosomal Abnormalities' to pregnant mothers. Representations of respectability and good order, maturity and beauty with a hint of purity adorn he promotional pamphlet. The desirability and acceptability of combining prenatal screening programs with antenatal care would seem beyond doubt in a well-ordered society, since they are investigations purchased by the socially responsible and respectable gentlefolk. Advertisers know how to wrap merchandise. No untoward displays of colour here, certainly no tattoos, no nose piercings—nothing unseemly disturbs the suitability of what this pamphlet is proposing to mothers—and yet, the murkiest tattoo, the ugliest nose ring would be less distorting than what this portrait of motherhood is selling ... "
Dr Little's paper also provides clear evidence of another theme explored at the Pontifical Academy for Life Conference last weekend, highlighted by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy - namely the economic forces which lie behind the killing of the disabled. Dr Little writes:
"A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia on March 5, 2007, reported on declining rates of Down syndrome births in the private and urban sector but not in the public or rural sectors, according to Queensland researchers. Immediate indignation followed. A senior lecturer in maternal-foetal medicine at the University of New South Wales likened the findings to a disparity in the quality of cancer care. The Medical Journal ofAustralia concluded that recent economic analyses have shown that population-based screening probably represents value for money. When the costs of screening are offset against the life-time costs of caring for a person with Down syndrome, screening is less costly than no screening at all regardless of which screening strategy is used."
Exactly the same kind of arguments have been used in Britain to justify killing the disabled before birth, as Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, the UK disability rights' group, has pointed out.