‘In a civilised society every life has value’, says bioethicist

In a civilised society every human life must have value regardless of age or disability, a leading bioethicist has said.

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research for the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, denounced the “dangerous” attitude of vulnerable people being viewed as a burden.

Last month, Westminster imposed an abortion regime on Northern Ireland that allows babies with Down’s Syndrome, cleft palate and club foot to be aborted up to birth. It was also revealed that people with learning disabilities have been issued ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) forms during the coronavirus pandemic.


Dr MacKellar said that pro-euthanasia and abortion campaigners are effectively saying “that if a life does not reach a certain minimum quality threshold or deemed worthwhile then it should not be brought into existence or should be ended”.

He argued that, in order to support such measures, “it is necessary to believe” that some lives are “of inferior quality or even meaningless”.

Dr MacKellar concluded: “The only way to resist the dangerous and outspoken proposal that the worth of a life is merely based on its potential for enjoyment (which is increasingly influencing society) is to continue to believe in genuine compassion, solidarity and the absolute equality of all.

“Perception and humility also require a rejection of the assumption that past barbarities at the beginning of the 20th century ‘cannot happen here’, ‘cannot happen again’ or ‘cannot happen to us’.”


In June, it was revealed that people with learning disabilities have been issued with ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ forms during the coronavirus pandemic because of their condition.

Health charity Turning Point said that it had learned of 19 such cases, while Learning Disability England (LDE) said ten of its member organisations had reported DNRs being issued without consultation in April.

Last month Westminster voted to force liberal abortion laws on Northern Ireland, effectively permitting abortions up to 24 weeks for any reason, and up to birth if the baby is deemed to have a severely life-limiting condition, or a ‘severe’ disability.

Also see:

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