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Princeton University bioethicist defends controversial views at campus debate

By The Associated Press
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 13, 1999

PRINCETON, N.J. - Badgered by protests and calls for his dismissal, Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer defended his position supporting euthanasia of disabled infants last night.

The 53-year-old Australian scholar's most controversial works support a parent's right to euthanize severely handicapped infants.

Speaking at a debate, Singer said his arguments are often misinterpreted and that he does not support policies that require infanticide in cases of severe disability. He said doctors and parents should agree to any decision.

Singer said that because an infant does not have ''the capacity to be aware of the future...(it) cannot glimpse what it has lost.''

''Killing an infant is not equivalent to killing a person because by a person I mean something more of a rational self-aware being,'' Singer said.

Campus security guards surrounded the packed auditorium while Singer debated Adrienne Asch, a blind Wellesley University professor of human reproduction. Six anti-Singer protesters - one in a wheelchair - stood outside the campus gates wearing signs that read, ''Singer and Hitler: Great together.''

Asch criticized Singer's argument that life with disability is, all things being equal, worse than life without disability.

''Those parents who believe that their child will not have as great life prospects are not considering what life is as a whole,'' she said. ''They think that the disability is some kind of universally bad, unreedeamable form of human variation.''

Singer's views on euthanasia were first detailed in his 1979 book,''Practical Ethics.'' His works have been translated into 15 languages.

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