Government adviser: killing children with defects acceptable

NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN
Scotsman - 01/25/04


A GOVERNMENT adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.

Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University, would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.

Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable.

In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world.

"He did not say how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed"

Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth.

The words drew a furious response from anti-abortion campaigners. The Pro-Life lobby group, who had members present at the meeting, noted what Harris had said and condemned his words.

Julia Millington, the group’s spokeswoman, said: "It is frightening to think that university students are being educated by somebody who endorses the killing of new-born babies, and equally worrying to discover that such a person is the establishment’s ‘preferred’ bioethicist."

However, Michael Wilkes, the chairman of the BMA’s ethics committee, claimed that Harris was simply trying to encourage debate and consistent thinking.

He said: "There are many who might concur that there is no difference between a full-term foetus and a new-born baby, although the majority would see there is a substantial difference. Abortion is legal, but termination after birth is killing."

In the past, Harris has spoken of the need to allow people to buy and sell human organs as a means of increasing supplies for transplant operations.

He also recently expressed support for the sex selection of babies for social reasons.

He said: "If it isn’t wrong to wish for a bonny bouncing baby girl, why would it be wrong to make use of technology to play fairy godmother?"
 
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