Janurary/Feburary, 1999 Volume XIII Number 4

Point of View

Post-Slepian questions

by John D. Finnegan, Ph.D.

How regrettable the recent death of Jewish gynecologist Barnett Slepian and how understandable the sympathy expressed over the loss of such a reputedly dedicated family man and kindly professional - someone who even used his expertise to save infants threatened by pathological birthing conditions. His death, though, raises some crucial, but frequently avoided, questions.

  • Why would such a Dr. Jekyll do double duty as a Dr. Hyde? As a physician, was he not aware that personhood (the genetically actualized capacity of a human existent to make informed choices) obtains at fertilization? Did he not know that taking pay to kill young persons, usually as healthy as they are innocent and non-aggressive, merely to accommodate those who consider them undesirable is professionally perverse, or that his doing so renders him a bounty-hunting, serial child-killer?

  • Who should know better than a post-Nuremberg Trial Jewish physician that any law permitting open season on defenseless innocents is radically inhumane and utterly invalid?

  • What post-Holocaust Jew can honestly convince himself that it is just to butcher defenseless innocents and, conversely, that it is unjust to resort to lethal force, if unavoidable, when attempting to rescue such victims?

  • When unjust laws protect serial child-killers, is it not more ethically imperative and lawful for individuals to exercise their duty to maintain a justly ordered society by exercising the very authority originally vested in them but perversely abandoned by those delegated to control unjust aggressors?

  • If genuine rights can only be derived from real needs, not merely from desires, how could Dr. Slepian consider it lawful to kill people simply because their age and temporary condition of dependency renders them undesirable to some second or third party? If privileging women to target their pre-born children on such arbitrary bases is rightfully lawful, shouldn't all physicians be licensed to facilitate anyone desiring to kill people for evincing characteristics which he or she takes offense at, even characteristics which pertain to race, gender, spousal status, religious affiliation, etc.?

  • If heroism entails deliberately jeopardizing one's person or property for the sake of intrinsic goods like truth and justice or the real needs of others when no other means are accessible, which action qualifies as heroic - getting paid to kill the innocent with impunity, or risking prosecution by killing unjust aggressors in rescue contexts?

  • When rescuers are prosecuted for permanently incapacitating those who make careers of killing children serially, wouldn't jurors be ethically and legally obligated to avail themselves of the jury nullification option and thus vote for acquittal, since punishing such action would constitute a grievous miscarriage of justice?

    Were elective abortions criminalized and the penalties stipulated severe - permanent revocation of medical licenses, lengthy prison terms, plus heavy fines - I dare say Dr. Slepian, as well as Dr. Gunn and Dr. Britton, would not be dead, nor all the children whom they have slaughtered.

    Dr. John Finnegan retired after teaching for 28 years at West Liberty (WV) State College in the Department of Humanities. His subjects included logic, ethics, formal argumentation, philosophy of law, and theories of crime and punishment.

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