A report from Poland treatment and non‐treatment of defective newborns

Bioethics 4 (2):143-153 (1990)
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Though it is evident that seriously and irreversibly defective infants are born in Poland, as well as in other socialist countries we do not know really what is the existing medical practice concerning their treatment or non-treatment. No representative empirical investigations were conducted with respect to it. We believe, however, that for the majority of doctors this is not a genuine moral problem at all. They feel simply morally, legally, and professionally obliged to treat those unhappy creatures without any regard to economic and moral cost of treatment. It is highly plausible that this attitude is common to all socialist countries. All the factors mentioned in this paper (religion, ideology, medical education, paternalism, remembrance of Nazi doctors’ criminal practice, the legal situation, and the health care system) have a direct influence on the moral beliefs and attitudes of doctors in socialist countries. And even in those countries in which there are different religious traditions (like the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, or the German Democratic Republic) there is a deeply-entrenched belief that preserving any human life is the principal and absolute duty of a doctor, one which must be fulfilled at any cost. We should also keep in mind that in this part of the world hardly any distinction at all is made between euthanasia and ordinary murder.

Author's Profile

Zbigniew Szawarski
University of Warsaw (PhD)


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