Human Exceptionalism

Anencephalic Babies Not Good as “Dead”

Throughout my campaign on behalf of the human exceptionalism and the equal dignity of all people, utilitarian bioethicists and others have challenged me about anencephalic babies, that is, those born with parts of their brain missing.

They aren’t persons, indeed, aren’t really human, the argument has gone. They are as good as dead. We should be able to harvest their organs!

No, I have countered. These profoundly disabled babies are fully human, fully equal, human beings born with a terminal condition. They are “us,” not “them” — and should always be treated as a subject, not an object.

Now, Baby Angela — born with anencephaly — is alive and apparently thriving at age 6 months. From the Rhode Island Catholic story:

Baby Angela smiles as a visitor tickles her feet. She wiggles and coos, moving her head from side to side. “She’s doing great,” Angela’s mother, Sonia Morales, told a Rhode Island Catholic reporter last week. “She’s almost 14 pounds, and she’s growing well.”

In May, Angela underwent a three-hour surgery to close an opening at the top of her head, as she has anencephaly, a neural tube defect in which portions of the brain, skull and scalp do not form in whole or in part during embryonic development.

She was also born with an encephalocele, another neural tube defect characterized by sac-like protrusions of the brain and membranes that cover it through openings in the skull. During the surgery, doctors removed the encephalocele, and closed the opening. Morales, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Providence, said doctors predicted Angela would likely be stillborn or die within a few hours or days following her birth. But on September 23, Angela will turn six months old.

None of us is disposable. None of us is as good as dead.

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