Can Infants Have Interests in Continued Life?
Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 2007; 28(4): 301-330
The philosophers Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan hold variations of the view that infant interests in continued life are suspect because infants lack the cognitive complexity to anticipate the future. Since infants cannot see themselves as having a future, Singer argues that the future cannot have value for them, and McMahan argues that the future can only have minimal value for an infant. This paper critically analyzes these arguments and defends the view that infants can have interests in continuing to live. Even though infants themselves lack a strong psychological connection to the future, others who are involved in an infant's life can anticipate, on an infant's behalf, the kind of future that awaits the infant, and on the basis of this insight judge that continuing to live would be in the infant's interests. After defending this position, I argue that this position on the interests of infants in continued life does not commit one to opposing abortion, and it does not commit one to the view that our ethical obligations to protect the lives of sentient animals are the same as our ethical obligations to protect infant lives.
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