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Alfie Evans and Issues of Life


Friend of the show, professor and author, Dr. Charlie Camosy joins us to discuss important ethical issues such as abortion, artificial intelligence, and the current case surrounding Alfie Evans.

Father Dave asks Dr. Camosy if it’s too early to begin having conversations about artificial intelligence and robots. Camosy explains, “We’re not too far away from it. People are already having these arguments. We’re already seeing how a certain kind of primitive robot can affect our labor culture. We’ve lost so many jobs due to automation. You combine that with the fact that our populations are getting older, and we’re not really replacing them. There are huge numbers of people, for instance, in Japan who are being taken care of by robots in their old age.”

Dr. Camosy then moves on to a more difficult topic, which is the idea of sex robots. “We’re getting much better at getting skin that feels like human skin and getting programming in various ways. The 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae is coming up, and I just gave a talk a few weeks ago saying that one of the fruits of our sexual culture that has separated sex from procreation is, in fact, this idea that it really doesn’t matter if sex is completely disconnected from a human relationship. We’ve seen that with porn and other things, but when sex robots and artificial intelligence really hit, that’s the thing that I fear the most. What is that going to do to our sexual and relationship culture?”

RELATED: The Moral Implications of the Charlie Gard Case

Father Dave moves on to talk about the current issue surrounding Alfie Evans, “It sounds strikingly similar to the case of Charlie Gard. Can you frame the story for our listeners?” Dr. Camosy explains: “It’s very similar to the Charlie Gard case. Both children have had some kind of problem with their brains that aren’t fully understood and are very rare. So, the attempts to cure them are longshots. In both cases, the medical authorities in the U.K. and the European Union have said it’s actually against the interest of the children to treat them more, and it is essentially like child abuse if you continue treating them. Even though the parents, in both cases, wanted to keep treating them and wanted to try new things, and had opportunities to do that in places like the U.S. and the Vatican’s hospital in Italy. The United Kingdom has said that they will not let them do that.”

Father Dave points out that the government believes that they are acting in the interest of the child. “They’re not saying that it’s too expensive for the U.K. to keep paying for the ventilator,” Father Dave says. “They’re saying on a medical and physical pain level, that the parents aren’t making the right decision because it’s an emotional situation, in the same way that a social worker might say that these parents are abusing their children.” Camosy replies, “It’s a shocking conclusion. This is so complicated, to have such confidence that this is the equivalent of abuse is bordering on ridiculous. What’s actually happening with the judgment of the United Kingdom, is that Charlie and Alfie are basically so disabled that their lives aren’t worth living and there’s really little prospect of him getting better. But neither were dying. They’re not on the verge of death. One thing that pro-lifers rightly point out is that we have to care for the most vulnerable, the disabled in particular. When able-bodied people make these kinds of judgments about the disabled, it’s deeply problematic.”

Father Dave mentions the fact that Pope Francis met with Alfie’s father. Charlie agrees that the pope’s involvement is important. “He did something similar with Charlie Gard, but I don’t think it was as direct and as firm. I don’t recall him meeting with Charlie Gard’s parents, so I think maybe Pope Francis has learned from that case and saw the result of it. Maybe the pope is energized and willing to step up here and stand up for what’s right in a situation that went so badly the time before.”

Father Dave also mentions a proposed bill in Pennsylvania. “Just yesterday, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill that would make abortion illegal, that would ban all abortions that were only being committed for the reason that the baby has Down syndrome. It’s passed through the House, but it’s not expected to pass through the Senate, and the governor has made it very clear that he will veto it if it comes his way. We’ve heard recently that Iceland is proud of the fact that over 99% of babies in the womb that are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Where are we with all of this? It’s scary.”

Dr. Camosy explains, “We have to talk about this. History is going to judge us very harshly for this practice. When people look back and say we killed somewhere between 65% and 90% of babies diagnosed with a disability like Down syndrome, I shudder to think what history is going to say about us. The population that constitutes Down syndrome people is an incredibly happy one. In fact, if you ask them are your lives happy, they say yes more often than people without Down syndrome. And if you’ve met someone with Down syndrome, you’re probably not surprised by that fact. I gave a talk once and mentioned these laws that we’re talking about, and after the talk, a 70-year-old man and his 30-year-old son came up, and his son had Down Syndrome. And the father had tears in his eyes and thanked me for bringing it up. He said it’s rarely brought up, and he was talking about his son and how important he was to him, and in the middle of it, his son just grabbed me and hugged me as hard as I’ve ever been hugged in my life. And it was very clear that this person was not only grateful but kind of scared. He lives in a culture that thinks that it’s worth killing people like him at this kind of rate, and wouldn’t you feel that way if that was the case for you? And there’s one reason why disability groups are so insistent on supporting bills like this and that’s because our culture really is abled and has able-bodied people arguing for these kinds of ‘rights’ all the time. It’s hard for me to imagine a more important thing to do than protect the vulnerable.”