Friday, August 27, 2010

Are Tyson and Landon Graham people?

As part of a series of articles on the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, CNN has the touching story of the Graham family. In July 2005, triplets Preston, Tyson, and Landon were born four months prematurely. Preston died shortly after his birth, but Tyson and Landon survived and were transferred to a children's hospital in New Orleans. Of course, the family's struggle had only just begun: Katrina was on its way.
Their parents, Laura and Jared Graham, came with them, but as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans, they were told they had to leave -- while their babies, kept alive by ventilators, had to stay.

. . .

Children's Hospital fared better than some others in New Orleans. It's on relatively high ground and its generator was on the roof, enabling helicopters to refuel it. But it was still no place for premature babies in Tyson and Landon's shape.

Laura finally heard they were being sent to Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, 70 miles away.

. . .

The boys were among 140 premature babies the staff of Woman's Hospital brought out of New Orleans in the four days after the levees broke. The hospital admitted 42 babies in the first 14 hours after the storm hit, and more kept coming. At the peak, 53 nurses were working per shift, up from a normal staff of 27.
Although Tyson and Landon lost their eyesight, and Landon requires special education, they are starting kindergarten on schedule. Their mother Laura proudly notes that the boys, who were born weighing less than two pounds each, are now "some of the tallest kids their age."

Radical pro-abortion philosophers like Peter Singer and Mary Ann Warren believe that one's status as a "person" is conditioned on certain abilities, which Tyson and Landon did not have when they were born just five months after conception. They would even argue that saving their lives was morally wrong. After all, evacuating 140 premature infants from New Orleans took tremendous resources; those resources should have gone toward helping "real people" instead. Such a great waste surely can't be justified by the uncritical sentimentality of parents.

If they should not have been saved, what does that mean for their current personhood? "Well of course they're people now-- they're five years old!" the opposition would no doubt protest. Yes: but they never would have made it to five if the utilitarian calculus had won the day. Under that theory, they are living on time that was unjustly given to them. How can you respect Tyson and Landon's rights as persons if you believe that they shouldn't be alive?


AmeliaLinne said...

A lot of crazy stuff went on at hospitals during Katrina. At this hospital, doctors killed 9 of their elderly patients.

Nulono said...

"How can you respect Tyson and Landon's rights as persons if you believe that they shouldn't be alive?"
I don't think this logic is valid.

Nulono said...

Singer doesn't think personhood comes until at least a year after full-term birth.