In Taking Life: Human, Peter Singer weighs the overall “happiness” potential of a disabled infant and an unborn healthy infant. He argues that the killing of a disabled infant will lead to greater prospects of happiness for non-disabled infants. Singer assumes that the death of one child automatically leads to the birth of another child, treating infants like interchangeable objects. His argument does not follow scientific logic and ignores the emotional connection established with all newborns. Singer’s abstract argument sharply contrasts the personal experiences of Chris Gabbart who writes about his relationship with his son, August who is born with cerebral palsy, visual impairment, and cognitive disabilities. The descriptions of Gabbart’s daily care for his son shows that caring for a disabled child can be transformational. When describing August’s disabilities, he writes, “They simply are what they are,” accepting the unpredictability of life. Gabbart concludes, “August, along with my daughter and my wife, is the most amazing and wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, for he has allowed me an additional opportunity to profoundly love another human being.” While I reject Singer’s belief that happiness can be measured, it is clear that if one tried to measure the happiness created by August’s life, it would be a very large number.
Citation: I borrowed some ideas from a piece I wrote in Portraits and Disability comparing the work of Peter Singer and Harriet McBryde Johnson.