Premature children birth is still a significant problem even in the most developed countries of the world. The continuing technical progress in the medical sphere has increased prematurely born children’s chances of survival dramatically; however, these children may still suffer terribly in the long run from the outcomes of their issue. Later in life, prematurely born children can experience various mental and physical complications. On the other hand, it should be considered that only a tiny minority of survivors will develop the said problems. At 26 weeks, more than half of all children can be kept alive, and 85% of them will grow to become completely normal. Only around 6% will have a light handicap, and 7% – a severe handicap.
Still, due to these possible negative consequences, it is doubted by some of these children should be saved in the first place, as dying in comfort might be better for them. When so much uncertainty is involved, it is impossible to find a purely technical solution based on the probabilities alone. Therefore, ethics can be applied in such cases to try to find morally and ethically correct decisions. There are three main ethical points of view on this medical problem: Kantian, utilitarian, and virtue ethics.
Regarding Kant’s ethics, his famous categorical imperative can be applied in the case of a prematurely born baby. According to Kant, people should be treated not as a means but as an end in themselves. This is especially important within the relationships of parents and children, as parents should see their children not as means of fulfilling their wishes but as a separate people with their agenda. Therefore, regarding prematurely born children, according to Kantian ethics, they should be saved, and everything possible should be done to ensure their safety, development, and future happiness.
This is confirmed further by Kant’s famous morality test – if a person wants his or her actions to become a universal law of behavior. In this way, Kant reminds people about the fact that they tend to see themselves as something exceptional, thus creating favorable conditions for themselves. This is a fallacious way of thinking, and universal standards and laws should be applied to everyone whenever possible. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that on average most people would like to be saved and given at least some chance to live a fulfilling life; therefore, the same rule should be applied universally. This is especially true, considering that the chances of having no further health complications are high after survival.
Still, some people doubt if the child should be saved in some specific situations, even following Kant’s ethics. For instance, in the case when there is a high chance that a child develops serious health problems in the future, and it is questionable if such a life is dignified and meaningful at all. In that case, it could be in the child’s interest to end their life before such a stage.
Overall, out of the presented theories, Kant’s ethics seem to be the closest to the real world, as the most attention is paid to the interests of a child, not the abstract interests of society. Moreover, Kantian ethics may be the most appealing to people, as they consider what any person would like to happen to him- or herself in the same situation. Still, even Kantian philosophy is not universal, and it leaves enough room for debate in some specific cases. Nevertheless, it is possible that with further technological advancements in the medical sphere, there will be no room left for discussion about people’s lives in the future.
“Moral Dilemmas… Can Ethics Help?” YouTube, uploaded by INTELECOM, 2016, Web.