Removing Inconvenient Lives

While some people are talking about what they call inconvenient truths, I feel inconvenient lives are a much more critical issue for society to consider. I just read about the call by a Church of England bishop to let newborn babies die when they are severely handicapped. Sickening – but the “logical” next step for a society that is beginning to use abortion to remove the physically and mentally challenged. Meanwhile, a liberal friend of mine brought me a powerful article from George Will, with whom he usually disagrees, on a topic he felt George handled very well: the desired of so many obstetricians to abort people like George’s son, Jon Will, a human who as a post-natal fetus with Down syndrome who has become a wonderful, interesting man with a vibrant life. George Will asks the question, “Golly, What Did Jon Do?” to tick off the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists so much that they think he and the other 350,000 Americans with Down syndrome should have been killed?

Have any of you ever spent much time with a victim of Down syndrome without feeling that you were in the presence of a special person whose life is valuable and makes the world better? Maybe it’s just me, but I have difficulty with the idea of wiping out the differently-abled because they have some challenges relative to us, because they are different and require more time.

In my previous ward in Atlanta, our bishop had a son with Down syndrome. He was an amazing young man. He became an Eagle scout and has continued to grow in many ways. He loved my little magic tricks and always wanted more – one of my best fans ever. It’s hard for me to see why doctors would want him to have been killed as an infant. It’s just an unspeakably ugly thought.

Here is the conclusion of George Will’s column, which some deep food for thought:

Jon, a sweet-tempered man, was born the year before Roe v. Wade inaugurated this era of the casual destruction of pre-born babies. And he was born just as prenatal genetic tests were becoming routine. Since then, it has become routine to abort babies like Jon because they are like Jon. Without this combination of diagnostic advances and moral regression, there would be more people like Jon, and the world would be a sweeter place.

America has, however, become a more congenial, welcoming place for its Down syndrome citizens who have escaped “screening.” On the second day of Jon’s life, the hospital’s geneticist asked his parents if they intended to take him home. Nonplussed, they answered that taking a baby home seemed like the thing to do.

Jon was born at the end of the era in which institutionalization of the retarded was considered morally acceptable, but in what was still an era of gross ignorance: In the first year of Jon’s life, a network-television hospital drama featured a doctor telling parents of a Down syndrome newborn that their child would probably never be toilet-trained. But ignorance lingers. There are doctors who still falsely counsel parents that a Down syndrome person will never read, write or count change. Such doctors should not try to get between Jon and his USA Today sports section.

In 1972, the odds were heavily against Jon’s living as long as he already has lived. Just 25 years ago, the life expectancy of Down syndrome people was 25. Today, because of better health care, better mental stimulation in schools and homes, and better community acceptance, their life expectancy is 56.

Jon has a disability, but he also has some things most men would like to have—season tickets for Nationals and Orioles baseball, Redskins football, Capitals hockey and Georgetown University basketball. He gets to and from games (and to his work three days a week for the Nationals at RFK Stadium) by himself, taking public transportation to and from his apartment.

Jon experiences life’s three elemental enjoyments—loving, being loved and ESPN. For Jon, as for most normal American males, the rest of life is details.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

12 thoughts on “Removing Inconvenient Lives

  1. Once one is taught that one group of people are subhuman and worthy of destruction, it is easy to extend that learning to other groups.

    Once a person chooses violence against one group of people it is not difficult for that person to extend that violence against other groups.

  2. Wow, I can’t imagine a human being capable of killing a newborne. Fortunatly, it sounds like this isn’t something anybody is taking seriously, and hasn’t really gone beyond this guy’s moronic statement.

  3. Thanks for the links, Jeff. I posted about this sad topic a time back on my own blog

    I think it is important that people are made aware of it. Thanks.

  4. As the parent of a child with down syndrome, I find the position the Church of England has taken, appalling, and more than a little frightening.

  5. Although the headline of the Daily Mail article seems to indicate otherwise, the Bishop of Southwork was not calling for active killing of disabled children. Recently, my wife had a conversation about this subject with a woman who had decided to allow her baby to die. As the woman and her husband had observed the suffering of their child, they had reached the conclusion that it would be better to withdraw extraordinary treatment than to prolong their child’s suffering. It is not always the morally right choice to employ all available means to keep someone alive.

  6. Anon @5:43, we are dealing with far more than one guy’s moronic statement. Already people are getting abortions to free them from the burden of raising handicapped children. And the extension of that to newborns is already happening in many nations, and is beginning to occur here. Depriving handicapped infants of food and letting them starve to death is one more horror that is occurring in this nation. It is only a minor step to take a more active role by killing them quickly instead of slowly.

    The sick philosopher and “bioethics expert,” Dr. Peter Singer of Princeton University, has stirred major controversy by calling for the killing of handicapped newborns.

    What Dr. Singer advocates is not much different from what some US physicians already do. Singer points out that depriving someone of food to “let them die naturally” is something we are already doing, and he’s just calling for more efficient and vigorous approach.

    Do not be so naive as to think that we are just dealing with a crazy bishop that no one will take seriously. What he advocates is taken very seriously indeed – and is far from any kind of original idea of his. It’s just bizarre to see a bishop of a Christian church calling for that – almost as bizarre as seeing someone associated with “bioethics” at a once-religious university making the same call.

  7. Granted, there are some very difficult cases where parents or loved ones conclude that artifical life support (extraordinary means) would only prolong intense suffering or would provide no hope of regaining consciousness. Their decision to withdraw the artificial life support is one that I leave to them. I do see an important distinction between allowing death to occur naturally, with genuine care and love still being given, and taking extraordinary steps to cause death. For humans like those with Down syndrome that can live without extraordinary artifical life support, the issue of terminating them for convenience should be especially disturbing.

  8. I think this says it best:

    Have any of you ever spent much time with a victim of Down syndrome without feeling that you were in the presence of a special person whose life is valuable and makes the world better?

  9. Whatever. Al Gore is right. Global warming is waaaaaaay more disturbing than infanticide. You crazy conservatives and your “sanctity of life.”

  10. Wow, you believe the fear mongering of Al Gore and think his eco-religion is more important than human life??? You’re lost.

  11. Killing a handicapped person for any reason is totally out of line in my book. On the other hand I would never judge anyone harshly for withholding extraordinary treatment and allowing nature to takes its course. My sister, who has downs syndrome will turn 40 this year. I have seen how difficult it is has been for my parents. How other people treat your family like they are just a little inferior. How my mother who is in her 70’s is still taking care of a 140lb child. How my mother is still cleaning up feces because her 40 year old child is not able to do it on her own. Is my sister a blessing, without a doubt she is. Its easy to spend a few minutes or hours with a handicapped person and say that they are special and wonderful human beings. It takes super human to devote an entire lifetime to the care of a handicapped person.

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