Are nondisabled lives worth living?

As prenatal testing becomes more and more accurate, we are faced with an ethical dilemma. Should nondisabled fetuses be systematically terminated?

Reasons commonly given in favor of screening and termination of the nondisabled include the following:

1) Nondisabled persons have a delusional belief in independence. Forgetting all the years of dependency on their parents, and ignoring the many benefits they continue to derive from family, friends, neighbors, local community, and the government, they not only undervalue all of these support systems but may actively sabotage them in an effort to prove their own self-sufficiency. Such efforts are dangerous to society as a whole.

2) Wars, rape, torture, financial and political corruption, and many other societal ills have been carried out by nondisabled individuals.

3) Nondisabled persons suffer from such physically and emotionally painful experiences as being picked on at school, seasonal colds, flu, stomach viruses, food poisoning, headaches, toothaches (often there is a need for extensive dental work in childhood and adolescence), back pain, menstrual cramps and childbirth if they are female, sprained or broken limbs, unemployment, accidents, natural disasters, loss of property, loss of loved ones, anxiety, grief, abuse, trauma, and death. It seems compassionate to prevent such needless suffering.

Arguing against termination, some ethicists point out that a nondisabled fetus has the potential to become disabled at a later point in life, whether by accident, illness, or old age. Others name nondisabled individuals who have made contributions to medicine or charitable work, but they also acknowledge that such cases are exceptional. Furthermore, some of the scientists who have made significant contributions are likely neurodiverse.

This leads us to another objection: our current inability to distinguish neurodiverse fetuses from typical ones. Any widespread campaign to eliminate healthy fetuses would result in the unintentional termination of many individuals with autism, epilepsy, psychiatric conditions, and intellectual disabilities. This is a very serious concern, which might however be resolved with future technological advances.

Of course, there are always a few ethicists hanging about who feel that we do not have the right to make judgments about which lives are valuable and which are not. No one really takes them seriously.


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