Date of Award

1969

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Dr. Jim Berryman

Abstract

The place is a Belgium court room, the scene is a murder trial, the defendants are several including a medical doctor, and the plaintiff is the state. The prosecuting attorney rises and begins to speak to the doctor who is on the witness stand.

The prosecutor questions the doctor, "Now doctor, did you take this oath before beginning your practice of medicine?" The doctor replies in the affirmative and then is asked more questions. "Did you prescribe the drug used to kill the Van De Put baby?"

"Yes, I did prescribe the drug the night before the baby's death."

"Didn't you break your professional oath by such an act as prescribing a deadly drug?"

"Yes, but my actions were for the benefit of my patient according to my ability and judgement; this action is within the keeping of my oath as a medical doctor."

Thus the trial began, and continued for several weeks as the government of Belgium sought to convict four persons of murder in the first degree. Suzanne Van de Put had given birth to the victim who was a deformed Thalidomide baby. Although the child was of normal intelligence, she had no arms, rudimentary flipper-like appendages extending from her shoulders, a misplaced anal canal, and a deformed face. The mother wanted the baby dead for the child's own happiness. Since the infant girl had normal intelligence, the mother reasoned that the child would be even more unhappy with her physical body. Therefore, the infant must die. The grandmother went into hysterics and pushed her daughter to kill the baby girl. The child's father was too mild to oppose the dominating women, and the family doctor felt responsible for the baby being deformed. Since the family doctor had prescribed the Thalidomide during early months of the pregnancy, he was compelled to help the family. Thus the doctor prescribed the deadly drug which was then administered to the infant by the family.

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