Joseph Fletcher, A Right to Die; Down Syndrome people are not persons and OUGHT to be killed

Bernard Bard and Joseph Fletcher in The Right to Die originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, 221 (1968 Apr), p. 59-64. . [Source]

[People] have no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down’s syndrome baby away, whether it’s “put away” in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible lethal sense. It is sad; yes. Dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down’s is not a person. There is no cause for remorse, even though, certainly, there is for regret. Guilt over a decision to end an idiocy would be a false guilt, and probably unconsciously a form of psychic masochism.

There is far more reason for real guilt in keeping alive a Down’s or other kind of idiot, out of a false idea of obligation or duty, while at the same time feeling no obligation at all to save that money and emotion for a living, learning child. The learning child might be a retarded one with a viable potential, or just an orphan in need of adoption.


  1. Ulf Engel

    I am the father of child with Down’s. It is for sure she is a person. In a way, a more intelligent one than Fletcher/Bard. She has real respect for life. Even though the book or article was written at a time when not much was known about the real potential of persons with Down’s, this cannot serve as an excuse for the disrespectful, horrible statement towards human life in general.
    Ulf/Germany, an eight-year-old Down-girl’s father, in 2016

  2. John o keeffe

    People who think they are intelligent and are not is bad but other people who listen to these people or even believe them are even more puzzling.Thank god he never had power.How did HItler get the power???
    From a proud Irishman with a beautiful daughter with Down’s syndrome.

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