A ‘wrongful birth’?
A Florida court case highlights America’s heightened devaluing of human life
A Florida family was recently awarded $21 million because of an alleged misdiagnosis of their first son’s birth defects which caused them to have a second son with similar defects. The boys both have Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome,1 which makes them unable to produce or synthesize cholesterol. A doctor told them after the birth of their firstborn that they should be able to have healthy children in the future; the couple claims that had they known better, they would have had a test to see if their younger son had the same defect, and would have aborted him.
Though a jury has awarded them $21 million, since the doctor works for a state university, the legislature will have to be convinced to award most of the money, since state law limits claims against government agencies at $200,000. Christian Searcy, one of the couple’s attorneys, is quoted as saying:
‘I believe that this case is so powerful and this tragedy was so preventable and is so poignant, that it is the kind of case that should rise above the fray and rise above party politics.’
The tragedy here, however, is not that the poor child was born, but that his life is thought to be ‘worthless’ just because he is severely disabled. One hopes that he and his brother do not know that their parents would have aborted them if they had known about their condition.
The absurdity of this case is easily shown. With most cases, there is some attempt at a legal remedy that rights the wrong. So to be consistent, the remedy should include righting this ‘wrong’ of being alive, by killing the boys! This is a reductio ad absurdum to the nonsensical idea that there is a great ‘wrong’ to be born alive.
Clash of worldviews
In a biblical worldview, all innocent2 human life is sacred, not just when that life happens to be useful or healthy, because unlike any other creature, we are made in God’s image, which gives us inherent value apart from any good we can do for society.
Conversely, in an evolutionary worldview, the goal of life is for the strongest and most ‘fit’ to pass on their genes. The weak are seen to be consuming resources with no chance of benefiting the group, so eliminating them from the picture is the logical step.
In Nazi Germany and in some parts of the US3 in the early 20th century, this couple could have been subjected to mandatory sterilization to ensure they did not ‘pollute’ the population with more disabled children (see also America’s evolutionists: Hitler’s inspiration? (Review of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black) and The Darwinian roots of the Nazi tree (review of From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany by Richard Weikart).
There have been other stories recently that have featured severely disabled children. Early in 2007, the Ashley Treatment4 came to light. In this case, the parents of severely-disabled Ashley had her undergo surgery to remove her uterus and breast buds to keep her from developing normally, and giving her hormone treatments to stunt her growth, keeping her child-size.
While an ‘ethics’ panel approved the procedure, claiming it would enable her parents to continue to care for her, giving her the best possible quality of life, other doctors called the treatment ‘disfiguring’ and strongly disapproved of the procedure. There seems little difference between that and the forced sterilization of over 60,000 US citizens before WW2.
Wesley Smith’s book The Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America (2001)5 has documented how many so-called ‘ethics’ panels are appointed to oppose the sanctity-of-life ethic and replace it with a utilitarian moral relativism.
The only difference between aborting a child because of deformities and the Nazis’ ‘mercy killings’ is that the former takes place inside the womb (see also Antidote to abortion arguments and Abortion: an indispensable right or violence against women?).
But there are neo-Nazi–like ideas, such as those promoted by atheistic evolutionist Peter Singer, that would allow infanticide for babies that don’t meet his standard for perfection. Thankfully these two boys escaped that fate.
Addendum: feedback on this article
Kara H. from Canada writes:
In response to the article ‘a wrongful birth’, I would just like to comment on my own experience. Twelve years ago we were expecting our first baby; within the first trimester I had become infected with rubella. The obstetrician had suggested that we terminate the pregnancy because I was highly infected. I told him that God is the giver and taker of life. He then asked us to sign a waiver to insure that we would not sue IF there were any deformities. We signed it on the premise that we would not sue anyway.
Our daughter was born perfectly healthy and is a great JOY to our lives. I thank the Lord for his graciousness to us. Just think of all the aborted children healthy or not that would have brought JOY to their parents lives if they only understood the Love of God for themselves.
- Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, ghr.nlm.nih.gov, accessed 2007. Return to text.
- Here I am using the word ‘innocent’ in the original sense of the Latin in nocens = ‘not harming’, i.e. not guilty of a capital crime—not in the sense of sinless. Return to text.
- Morgan, D., Yale Study: U.S. Eugenics Paralleled Nazi Germany, commondreams.org, February 2000. Return to text.
- Kirschner, K.L., et al., Ashley X., Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 86(12):1023-9, December 2007. Return to text.
- Smith, W.J., Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, amazon.com, February 2000. Return to text.
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