This is the sort of story that really gets under my skin. A Florida couple won a lawsuit against her doctors, asserting that they failed to discover that their child would be born disabled (no arms and one leg). The woman testified that she would have definitely aborted the child if they had that information.
“They went from the heights of joyous expectations to the depths of despair,” their attorney Robert Bergin told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday.
It is a sham to think that the timing makes any difference. My wife and I also experienced this descent from joy to despair, but it actually occurred at the ultrasound. We were crushed as truly as this couple was crushed. That an abortion is a possible direction to go after receiving such news doesn’t make the despair go away. I’ve known many a parent that lost their child merely through miscarriage and was subsequently crushed at the loss of the child. In situations such as these, despair is the natural response, but it does not justify any and all actions that we might conceive of.
I am not sure that I can hold this court judgement against the couple. As I read between the lines of the article, I gather that we have a fairly poor couple that has struggled to give their disabled child the care he needs. I get the impression that they were willing to say anything, perhaps even complete untruths, in order to obtain security for their child. But now, after four years of life with my own disabled child, I know just how much of an untruth these untruths are.
My daughter was born with spina bifida. She can’t walk. As yet, she can’t talk. She’s had numerous broken legs and almost countless surgeries. For virtually a year she was in what amounted to a body cast for her small frame (hip spica). But she is the happiest kid you’ll ever meet and she brings joy into every room she enters. You have to see it to believe it. (More about our life since then)
The minute you have a child (and she was our fourth, so we were aware of this) you open yourself up to possible despair. What happens if your perfectly ‘abled’ child walks out into traffic, gets hit by a car, and loses his arms and a leg? If it were legal, would you ‘abort’ it? Only the most callous of humans would. But here we have a situation where again it is just a matter of timing. The loss of the arms and leg happened in the womb. The grief and despair are real, along with the trials and tribulations that result from the new condition, but the joys that accompany parenthood remain and in some ways are even intensified.
But like I said, I have this feeling like these particular parents already know this and did what they felt was necessary. I don’t know how that’s going to go over with the kid in the future, but I can see the conversation that is going to have to happen: “You would have aborted me? You think life with me right now is so bad it would be better for all of us if I were dead?” “Dear, we didn’t mean that. We only said what we had to say in order to get you what you needed. We’re telling the truth, now.” We presume in this discourse that the child is being taken care of and the parents do not now live in a 3 million dollar home with three Hummers.
The big problem here is the legal precedent. When I asked casually above whether or not you could ‘abort’ your child who has been hit by a car, I added the caveat: is it legal? Just because people in their grief might do all manners of things, it doesn’t follow that society, while in its right mind, acting coolly and dispassionately in an attempt to have just, fair, and reasonable laws, will allow all these things. But this court judgement is an instance showing that society is not in its right mind. It ought not be legal to put a bullet between the eyes of your freshly paralyzed child to ‘spare’ him a life of ‘indignity’ and it ought not be legal to use saline fluid or a vacuum hose if the event happens earlier in the child’s life and it ought not be legal to exploit doctors who are doing their best for millions of dollars in order to ease a family’s finances.
Society ought to find other, more sane and moral, methods for helping such families. In particular, I would say that the Churches within society should be at the forefront in helping such families. This last point is especially important in light of the fact that ‘Society’ is out of its right mind and has been for a long time.
I am reminded of a Canadian court ruling that conflated justifications of abortion with infanticide, meaning, I suppose, that it will not be long before legal infanticide is the norm in Canada. Perhaps the idea of killing off children who get hit by cars and are disabled for life is not as farfetched as it sounds… Society seems poised to hand out the bullets.