During the next 35 years, the traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments, says controversial bio-ethics professor Peter Singer.
Princeton’s Peter Singer (Photo: The Age)
“By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct,” says Princeton University’s defender of infanticide. “In retrospect, 2005 may be seen as the year in which that position (of the sanctity of life) became untenable,” he writes in the fall issue of Foreign Policy.
Singer sees 2005’s battle over the life of Terri Schiavo as a key to this changing ethic.
“The year 2005 is also significant, at least in the United States, for ratcheting up the debate about the care of patients in a persistent vegetative state,” says Singer. “The long legal battle over the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube led President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress to intervene, both seeking to keep her alive. Yet the American public surprised many pundits by refusing to support this intervention, and the case produced a surge in the number of people declaring they did not wish to be kept alive in a situation such as Schiavo’s.”
He writes that by 2040, the Netherlands and Belgium will have had decades of experience with legalized euthanasia, and other jurisdictions will also have permitted either voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide for varying lengths of time.
“This experience will puncture exaggerated fears that the legalization of these practices would be a first step toward a new holocaust,” he explains. “By then, an increasing proportion of the population in developed countries will be more than 75 years old and thinking about how their lives will end. The political pressure for allowing terminally or chronically ill patients to choose when to die will be irresistible.”
The professor, who advocates killing the disabled up to 28 days after birth, was the subject of protests when he was hired in 1999 by Princeton, a school founded by the Presbyterian denomination. A group calling itself Princeton Students Against Infanticide issued a petition charging the Australian professor “denies the intrinsic moral worth of an entire class of human beings – newborn children.”
Singer also is known for launching the modern animal rights movement with his 1975 book “Animal Liberation,” which argues against “speciesism.” He insists animals should be accorded the same value as humans and should not be discriminated against because they belong to a non-human species.