Dr. Peter Singer, son of Jewish refugees, has been labeled by some as another Adolph Hitler. The prestigious ivy league Princeton University professor teaches biomedical ethics, a required pre-med course. Ethics of course, explores concepts of right and wrong, and biomedical ethics explores health care choices and dilemmas that physicians face in their practice. So Dr. Singer’s job is to help students determine what is right and wrong when dealing with patients. What Prof. Singer shares as his philosophy is radical for many people and has caused great public furor and controversy.
Dr. Singer outlined his ideas with Dan Rather on a broadcast of CBS 60 Minutes. The mild-mannered Australian professor explained his teachings; they contain four basic principles:
It is acceptable and often even proper to euthanize terminally ill who have ‘no consciousness’ left. it is also right to terminate the lives of handicapped infants. The goal, according to Singer is to ‘prevent families and the handicapped from future suffering. We’ve revisited this idea several times: Margaret Sanger and the Eugenics movement of the 1930’s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his assisted suicides of the 1980’s and 1990’s. ‘Not Dead Yet’ is a lobbyist/activist group comprised of handicapped persons who speak and try to protect the rights of fellow handicapped citizens. They have rallied at Princeton to protest Dr. Singer’s teaching of ethics as unethical. One NDY banner read ‘Is Princeton to become a ‘poison ivy’ league school?
Animals suffer pain just as humans do and should not be allowed to. It is better to experiment on the terminally ill who have ‘no consciousness’ and will ‘feel no pain’ than to experiment on animals who feel pain. Dr. Singer has chained himself in stocks like an animal to show solidarity with pigs, cows and chickens who are often subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment on farms. Dr. Singer makes the point that if a person can’t feel pain, it would be acceptable to perform tests on them.
We humans are selfish and would rather enjoy the good life than to help suffering and starving in the world. Dr. Singer gives 20% of his income off the top to world relief agencies. He tries to live as simply as possible. He admits he could do more. To listen to him, I had to conclude that this was his major theme. It seems to me that Dr. Singer is almost purposely suggesting some outrageous ideas to wake society up to the fact that although we claim to care about and respect life, our actions don’t show it. We watch suffering, poverty, starvation and disease and make virtually no effort to alleviate it.
We should always think Golden Rule: Would I want this done to me?The teacher that I subbed for on Monday assigned me to watch and discuss 60 Minutes clip with his high school students. We had some very heated and interesting debate, as you might imagine. Perhaps as you read Dr. Singer’s philosophy, you will, as the students and I did, notice some contradictions. First he suggests we allow our ill or handicapped loved ones to undergo testing, and asks if we would want it done to us
You can watch the 60 Minutes clip at CBS News for more information. Is Prof. Singer espousing Nazi thinking, which his parents worked so had to protect him from? Should Dr. Singer be allowed to continue to teach ethics at Princeton?