This Article will suggest an approach to facilitate decision-making where the concepts of quality of life and sanctity of life appear to clash. It is hoped that a reconciliation of these two ideas will provide an alternative to the increasing federal intervention in the process of family decision-making vis-a-vis handicapped infants.
The construct will combine deontological standards with situational, or consequential, ethics. This unique synthesis will then be placed within a sphere of expanded family advisers-medical, social, spiritual, legal, etc.-who are called into being with the birth of a genetically defective newborn. The force of the construct arises from the basic goal of man to minimize suffering, maximize the social utility or purposes of life, and give living expression to love of God and of mankind.
The actual utilization of the construct can be likened to a balancing test, where the gravity of the harm in allowing life-sustaining actions for a handicapped infant is balanced against the utility of the benefits stemming from the life-sustaining actions. The gravity of harm is measured in terms of social, economic, religious and philosophical costs, while the utility of the benefits is measured in terms of the positive consequences that flow to the threatened individual, its parents, and society. To assist the balancing process, there must be a weighing of factors such as the infant's long-range capacity for entering into relationships with others.
Imperfect as considerations forming this construct may be, they may help the family tackle the painful problems of a grossly deformed neonate or a genetically defective infant. Acting within this spirit, the standards of quality of life and sanctity of creation in no way challenge or obstruct one another. They serve neither as palliatives or mitigating shields, nor as an apotheosis or glorified ideal. Rather, they are mere aspects that complement each other in a unified approach to decisional efforts. As such, they are grafted to the proposed analytical construct which-if implemented- would act to limit or possibly preclude government intrusions into the privacy and autonomy of the family unit in its process of anguished decision-making.
George P. Smith II, Quality of Life, Sanctity of Creation: Palliative or Apotheosis?, 63 NEB. L. REV. 709 (1984).