Saturday, October 01, 2005

And then I found this

Those pesky ethics
A DOG'S DEATH - Yahoo! News: "I am a pediatrician who frequently treats children with kala-azar, a disease transmitted to humans from dogs by sand flies. Treatment of dogs and humans is painful, prolonged and not very effective. Euthanizing infected animals is the best way to curb the spread of the disease. A stray dog, Lisa, established herself outside our house, and we fed her daily. When kala-azar was diagnosed, we reluctantly euthanized her. Ethical? -- Dolores Protagoras, M.D., Athens, Greece

This sad action was permissible, given the facts you present. You rightly imply a moral distinction between humans and nonhumans. We regard it as supererogatory for one person to sacrifice his life, or even face certain grave dangers, to benefit another. No disease, no matter how horrific, would justify murdering human beings to prevent its spread. We sometimes impose such things on animals, however, destroying some fowl, for example, to protect others -- and us -- from avian flu. And in every case, suffering must be minimized.

To take so drastic a step, the threat must be serious, and there must be no other way to counteract it. You may not destroy an animal to curb a minor malady, like the spread of fleas, or a disease that can be countered by quarantine or inoculation.

This position accords moral standing to animals but places a higher value on people, something that Peter Singer, for one, professor of bioethics at Princeton University and author of 'Animal Liberation,' does not automatically do. He e-mailed: 'Maybe killing Lisa was justifiable, if there was really no other way of preventing the spread of a painful disease to other dogs and humans. But I don't think that mere membership of one species rather than another can make a sharp difference to whether it is, or is not, right to kill an individual for the benefit of many others.'

To confer higher status on human beings is not simply to champion the species to which we happen to belong. To confer higher status on human beings is not simply to champion the species to which we happen to belong. Rather, it reflects a willingness to consider intelligence, self-awareness and the capacity for suffering, among other qualities. It is an imperfect argument. An infant or a person in a coma might lack these qualities. But it does suggest that we value a dolphin over a mouse, a mouse over a worm.

There remains a duty to avoid harming any animal, but there are circumstances, like that of Lisa the dog, when doing so may be justified."
Even vets have them. Why not politicians and our current moral leaders?

No comments:

Post a Comment