The fate of seriously ill newborns has captured the atten- tion of the public, of national and state legislators, and of powerful interest groups. For the most part, the debate has been cast in the narrowest possible terms: "e;discrimination against the handicapped"e;; "e;physician authority"e;; "e;family autonomy."e; We believe that something much more profound is happening: the debate over the care of sick and dying babies appears to be both a manifestation of great changes in our feelings about infants, children, and families, and a reflection of deep and abiding attitudes toward the newborn, the handi- capped, and perhaps other humans who are "e;less than"e; nor- mal, rational adults. How could we cast some light on those feelings and attitudes that seemed to determine silently the course of the public debate? We chose to enlist the humanities-the dis- players and critics of our cultural forms. Rather than closing down the public discussion, we wanted to open it up, to illuminate it with the light of history, religion, philosophy, literature, jurisprudence, and humanistically oriented sociol- ogy. This book is a first effort to place the hotly contested Baby Doe debate into a broader cultural context.