It seems that standard practice in some Scottish hospitals is to dispose of aborted children by incinerating them with clinical waste. The health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has reacted with suitable concern, as would be expected. Far more intriguing to my mind is a comment made by Sheila McLean, who is a director of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine at Glasgow university. She is quoted by the Times as saying
If you believe the foetus is a person from the moment of conception, then clearly it would be disrespectful to throw it away with clinical waste. There will undoubtedly be people who, because of their belief in the status of the embryo, would find this tremendously distressing.
I do believe that foetuses are people from the moment of conception, but I am shocked by the suggestion that it is somehow worse to incinerate them than it is to kill them. Why do we afford greater respect to a dead child than a living one? The dead child is not affected by the decision. The dead child does not mind if they are ignominiously burned with used bandages or buried as part of a special ceremony. They are dead. They have been killed. Because their life was not respected.
I am pleased that the Scottish government will be reviewing guidelines, but I’d much rather see respect for the living (of any and every age) than for the dead. Wouldn’t it be nice to give respect while it still counts for something?