13 December 2005

Right to a Healthy Child

It seems that as medical advancements improve, more and more people expect that medicine can cure everything and that it is possible to ensure a healthy child. The trouble is that we’re still a long way from being able to make sure every child is born healthy in every way- so what do we do with the ones who aren’t?

Wrongful birth lawsuits have become more common- just search for them and you’ll find plenty of attorneys willing to represent you. Some of the suits involve obvious medical mistakes, often during birth, that result in various disabilities. But other suits are brought when a doctor does not diagnose a certain problem prenatally. The right to abort an imperfect child is argued to have been lost, because apparently most of us aren't quite advanced enough to actively euthanize a disabled infant.

But there are so many problems that can turn up later that are missed by an ultrasound. Not all can be caught by amniocentesis. It's all part of the risk when you get pregnant- you really have no idea what you're going to get. You have expectations and reasonable guesses, but no promises. I can’t see that there can be any right to a healthy child when there are so many unknowns.

This new right has always bothered me, but after spending so much time in the baby house with quite a few disabled children, this idea is awful to me. Some of my babies were abandoned because they weren’t perfect. It’s clear they’re not perfect. I can understand why they were abandoned- life is difficult here. But I’d hate to have had any of them aborted or have them not have the option of being adopted because parents only want healthy children.

It also concerns me that international adoption has become so popular recently as a way to get a white baby quickly. Well, you know what? Almost every child adopted from an orphanage is likely to have some kind of special need. That’s often why they were in the orphanage in the first place, and even if they were "normal" before, orphanage life is far from a normal childhood. Children from any country in the former Soviet Union are very likely to have been exposed to alcohol before they were born- yes, even in the Muslim countries. Children from China are often have trouble with attachment because of the often less-than-stellar care in the orphanages there. Almost all orphanages are underfunded and it is practically impossible for any child in a large group to get the love and attention she needs.

Sure, there are plenty of children that do marvelously after they are adopted from overseas. But so many have difficulties. But I’d hate for international adoption to get a reputation of being "special needs." These children need to get out of the orphanages and if people are scared and determined to have a healthy child, international adoption could become much less common. The best way to avoid both problems is to make sure that adoptive parents are well-educated about adoption.

Even if we were medically advanced enough, I’d hate this right. God doesn’t eliminate all imperfections, and I guess I have a little too much faith in God to believe that we should eliminate everyone who isn’t perfect.

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