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Nine out of 10 unborn children found to have Down’s syndrome are aborted. The price of this tragedy is high

Now the Liverpool Care Pathway, it seems, is being applied to babies with severe long-term disabilities

By on Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The latest news on the Liverpool Care Pathway, the controversial medical protocol designed to make the dying process more humane, is that it is being applied to very sick babies. I was about to write here “terminally ill” babies – but this is the problem: the LCP has been used in some well-publicised cases where the patients – including babies – are not dying. I read a chilling report last week by an anonymous doctor which described the case of a baby born with multiple congenital problems but who was not about to die. The decision had to be made about whether to treat the infant and help him to live, with all the difficulties involved, or whether to let him die by neglect ie by withdrawing food and liquids. The parents, after consultation, decided they could not cope with a handicapped child so it was agreed the baby should be left to die. This, the doctor related, was for him an agonising process. He admitted feeling extreme reluctance to monitor the infant during the many days the baby took to die, because of the horrific effects of the severe dehydration.

I mention this case because it illustrates the stark moral questions involved. There is a huge difference, for instance, between deciding not to treat a very premature baby who, without immediate and comprehensive medical intervention of an intrusive and painful nature, would die soon after birth, and the story above: a baby with severe, long-term disabilities for whom euthanasia is the deliberately agreed “solution”.

Journalist Dominic Lawson has written very movingly in a recent article in the Daily Mail of his love for his daughter, Domenica, who has Down’s syndrome. Down’s is a chromosomal disorder – but not a life-threatening condition. In the not so distant past there have been some notorious stories of babies born with Down’s who have also been left to die of neglect; in one case in America, Mother Teresa pleaded for the baby in question to be handed over to her nuns who were willing to give it the loving care it needed to thrive. Today, over 90 per cent of babies found to have Down’s in antenatal tests are routinely aborted.

This is an immense tragedy, born of an instinctive fear of a child who is not “normal”. But the price of choosing to eliminate such children is very high. The late Professor Jérôme Lejeune, the geneticist who discovered the cause of Down’s syndrome and who spent his entire medical career seeking to find a cure for it, wrote: “The quality of a civilisation can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members. There is no other criterion.” He also pointed to the Spartans: “The only ones to eliminate newborns that they believed would be unable to bear arms or beget future soldiers… And nothing remains of [Sparta]: it has left us not a single poet, not a single musician, not even a ruin. Sparta is the only Greek city that contributed nothing to humanity. Is that a coincidence or is there a direct connection?”

I have also been reading an inspirational book by Leticia Velasquez, mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome, who has set up the pro-life organisation KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) to raise awareness in the US of the high abortion rate for such children and to persuade parents that there is another choice if they can find it within themselves to make it. Her book, A Special Mother is Born, focuses not on the babies born with severe special needs but on their mothers (and in some cases fathers) who tell their own honest and courageous stories in its pages. These mothers aren’t heroes. They are ordinary women with ordinary human weaknesses faced with an extraordinary choice: to love and nurture their challenging babies – or not. Despite not always having a strong faith to begin with, or material resources to cope with the problems presented to them, these mothers chose life; as the book relates, this choice has brought them unexpected rewards, such as stronger marriages, closer families, renewed faith and new pro-life apostolates.

I do recommend it as part of the literature that all new parents of severely disabled babies should be given – to help them make the choice to go down “the road less travelled”.

  • teigitur

    Down’s syndrome children are the most loving of human beings. They are not easy to cope with sometimes, but if well cared for can live relatively normal and long lives. I know of one lady who looked after her twin sister( who had Downs) as well as her own family. The twin lived into her mid-sixties. I find it an appalling tragedy that most of these children are never given the chance of life.Killed because they are not perfect. Who of us are?

  • Kevin

    “Sparta is the only Greek city that contributed nothing to humanity.”

    If this is to be used as an argument against the crime – not the “tragedy” – of abortion, it is worth remembering the enormous contribution that the Spartans made to European civilisation by holding up the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.

    (That does not mean theirs was not an evil regime, much as the World War II Allied power, the USSR.)

  • paulpriest

    The more I hear the more I am convinced that Colin Harte’s Solidaritism  [and I wish they'd reprint 'Changing unjust laws ubjustly' ] and Greg Cunningham’s Guerrilla ‘shock & awe’ tactics are the only way ahead…

    The ‘Establishment’ Pro-Life movement in this country needs to be confronted on 4 areas

    a] Incrementalism is not only sinful and anti-solidaritist – it’s a proven-failed policy.

    b] We’re at war against abortion – and we should start taking the fight to them :

    c] The Liverpool Care Pathway is backdoor Euthanasia which contravenes Catholic teahing – and our major Catholic ethicists/commentators  who are adopting a Caiaphas Corollary with the utilitarian intention of preventing Euthanasia Legislation by denying there is anything euthanising within the LCP need to be named and shamed and corrected by our hierarchy and the Vatican if necessary .

    d] The Good Counsel Network know against whom they are fighting – it’s not our neighbour or the economy or feminist ideologies – it’s evil itself – this is a spiritual battle which can only have any hope of progress and success if it remains spiritually nourished and armoured through prayer and fasting and the sacraments. Other Pro-Life acticist and rganisations must learn to recognise this too and not try to separate the secular from the spiritual.

    Finally our Bishops need to speak out – PLEASE!!!???

  • Benedict Carter

    Quite apart from involving themselves in murder, the parents of a Down’s child are depriving themselves of much love and fun along with the troubles that come. I had a Down’s cousin and though once upon a time concerned at his determination to force a fork into a working TV set, enjoyed his laughter and fun and insights very much. Yes, he was disabled and we children knew it – but we saw him as a human being nevertheless. 

    Great shame on those parents who kill their unborn young, and on the doctors who suggest it to them! 

    And not only great shame, but everlasting torment.

  • la catholic state

    Isn’t it time there were prosecutions brought against some doctors for murder.  For it is blatant murder they are practising.  Or has the world been completely turned upside down.

    Truly there is a dark and evil heart in our NHS. 

  • la catholic state

    I totally agree with your last point.  Pro-life organisations believe they will get more support if they are secular…..but I don’t think they do.  Prayer and fasting are the most powerful weapon. And the Pro-life organisations can still be open to everyone of goodwill.

  • Jeannine

    “Today, over 90 per cent of babies found to have Down’s in antenatal tests are routinely aborted.”

    I’m not too sure what the percentage is but some of these babies who were tested positive & were aborted had results of false positives from these pregnacy tests.

  • drj81

    A sacrament is said to be an outward sign of inward grace so what then does this say about the society in which we live?  

  • cullenD

    God creates a world where babies endure short painful lives, ended by brutal deaths. He sits idly by, watching them suffer. He aborts half of all fertilised ova, thus sending them to “Limbo”. He then condemns anyone who doesn’t worship him as a “Loving God” to an eternity of torture.

    In the words of Ricky Gervais, “Thank God I’m an atheist”.

  • Guskenny

    I had the previlege of rearing and caring for my son Sean who had Down’s Syndrome until he died ages twenty one years. He was the most loving human being I have ever known and gave me some inkling of the absolute love of God for us all. I do not criticize unfortunate couples who abort a fetus with Down’s Syndrome , I just think if only they knew all the love they are missing. My later wife Noreen always said of our Sean that he was the stone we almost rejected who became the cornerstone. Twenty six years after his death I still miss him . Gus Kenny

  • teigitur

    You really ought to try to get more sleep Damo. BTW looks like Ms Holland’s expose on Galway was not quite all it seemed. ” Muddled” was the word she now uses,on air, though of course not a peep of that in the IT. Surprise!.I await the outcome with interest.
     If I were Ricky Gervais I would have difficulty believing in God too. Given the hand he has been delt.

  • Patrickhowes

    A very poignant article Francis.I remember myself when we moved to Chile.My 5 year old and for old boys were scared of a number of down´s children in the playground.All Catholic schools are inclusive of handicapped children,,whatever the disability.It was unbeleivable to see the love the boys developed for these children and how many developed so well within this educational approach.Every shopping mall I ever went to,the adults with this handicaped worked in many of the food malls or supermarkets and were incoprorated in to society in an unbigoted way.I felt embarrassed at first when my sons referred to these children as “raros” or strange.It was only with time that I realised that my sons were afraid beacuse they had never encountered any children with Downs syndrome beacuse as your article states,they have all been got rid off.I remember with our third child who was born,that the pressure to have an amniosenticist test became so strong that we went on holiday until we were over the legal limit for them to trouble us any more and the row I got into with the Doctor who saw us as irresponsible and “that of course i is now too late to do anything”.Why do I compare the two societies,because one is often referred to as third world,yet it provides a constitutional protection to all babies and allows these children the right to life and integration to a society that loves them and respects and then provides a quality of life ofr them.I thank Chile not only for enshrining this value in their laws but also for having educated my own children and for having shown them that all people can be loved regardless of the physical consition or whether they have chromosone more or less.We in Europe are continuing the policies of Hitler´s social engineering.It horrifies me and makes me feel ashamed that a nation that had the backbone to defeat evil has succumbed to the very ideologies that shaped it!

  • Patrickhowes

    Interestingly enough,the new Catholic Prime minister of Spain is introducing a new law to ban abortion for handicapped children due to the fact that it is the best example of human discrimination through murder.

  • paulpriest

     It’s abject hypocrisy for Marxiist/Socialists to claim to defend the weakest  most vulnerable in society when they maniacally collaborate in and promote eugenic genocide

  • Kevin

    So Ricky Gervais does not sit idly by, and campaigns against abortion?

    Who knew?

  • paulpriest

     Your misguided ideoporn reveals a terrifying inhumanity – better to die than suffer is a cowardly malevolent Nietzschean nightmare. You are also quite ignorant of Catholic teaching but that bears little excuse. Ricky Gervais has already made his ugly ignorant disgusting prejudice quite clear with his “mong ‘jokes’”. Thank God I’m not Ricky Gervais.!!!

  • Lazarus

    I had been going to comment that even the usual crowd of Dawkinsians appeared to have retained a sufficient sense of shame not to be rushing in to explain what a good idea it was to kill disabled people. But clearly not enough shame to stop you trying to promote the very ideology that causes their deaths.

  • Sjdymock

    great article but pleased don’t talk about “these challenging babies” as they’re not-my child with DS has not been challenging at all-the “services”, agencies, educational facilities have been fir sure-but not him.

  • cullenD

    The problem of a Loving Omnipotent God who allows suffering is not a new idea. Pointing out the long lived paradox of belief in a loving god is neither opportunist or original. It most certainly is not “Dawkinian”. 

    Your idea that my comment was shameful stands as ludicrous. I read an article about suffering, then commented on the nature of god. Why should I be ashamed?

  • cullenD

    Teig, you are too good! My comment was by way of insomnia. Tonight I’ve been on the tear with lesbians, so perhaps I might seem gay-centric. 

    Thankfully, it’s only simple insomnia that keeps me awake at night. Trying to reconcile a loving god with a world of suffering is something that would keep me awake forever.

  • cullenD

    Are you trying to give me a lesson in morality? Are you being that brazen and delusional? Are you so threatened by an old argument that you resort to slurs against me? 

  • paulpriest

    Hardly threatened by such perverted pornographic utilitarian inhumanity!

    One doesn’t have to be an atheist to hold unconscionable ideas…but it helps.
    Your premise is monstrous – barbarically cowardly evil.

    It’s hardly a slur – your position is contemptible – it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.

    …and whether it’s an old or a brand new argument doesn’t affect either its veracity or its banal malevolent stupidity

    Belief in God is an exercise of the of the intellect appreciating natural and supernatural revelation and utilising one’s reason; but Faith in God is a gift afforded to those willing and freely open to receive its grace.

    You’re not stupid in being an Atheist: Merely wrong.
    But you are thoroughly misguided and reprehensible in your monstrous notions which would deny life to those who suffer while they in their suffering are more alive than your mental capacity or conscience in their present condition will ever be…

    …and in regard to Catholic teaching yes you are uninformed – that requires some willingness to be instructed regarding your contumacious ignorance lest you continue to argue based on misrepresentation and a downright lie.

    You can continue at your own discretion – but it would make you either a fool or a scoundrel.

  • teigitur

    Keeps a lot of us awake Damo, from time to time, though with markedly different conclusions! On the tear with lesbians eh? Does that higher or lower your street cred these days?

  • cullenD

    Brilliant use of the word pornographic. Kudos to you.  But you still fail to explain how your loving god allows suffering,  

  • Patrickhowes

    You mean you have chosen the path of the easy cop out?Anyone can be an atheist but not everyone can be a believer!

  • paulpriest

     You’re the one who has reversely inducted that human suffering implies the absence of a Loving Deity.

    You need to explain your absolutist position that any manner of obscure or mysterious or unconsidered hypotheticals might explain the paradigm…so why do you utterly dismiss them all with a somewhat stubborn irrational dogmatic atheism?

    If it’s your opinion and a belief formulated by a ‘best-guess’ scenario then fair play to you…

    But that in no way negates anyone who believes otherwise and acts accordingly…

    especially when if there is no God and this life is all there is…why are you the one who is so flippantly readily willing to kill any of those who happen to be in pain?

    At present after a severe fall I’m in absolute agony – every breath feels like a heart attack and my head feels like it is having sexual relations with a jackhammer – and I dare say a little respite would not go amiss – but your euthanising final solution is the last thing I’d appreciate thank you very much…

  • Lazarus

    As you note, the problem of evil is nothing new and you have nothing new to contribute to it.

    However, in the face of a clear human evil, the slaughter of innocent children -inspired by the brutalizing atheism you espouse- instead of at least keeping a respectful silence in the face of that evil, you make a cheap jibe backed up by a cheap comic.

    Reasons for shame, surely?

  • cullenD

    Where did I indicate in any way that I have a “euthanising final solution” when faced with the problem of human suffering?

    Do you assume that as I don’t believe in god I’m a monster? You charge me with being “somewhat stubborn irrational dogmatic” in my views, based purely on your assumptions.  

  • paulpriest

     Might help if you read what I said….

  • cullenD

    It can only raise my cred! Normally I sit in a quiet corner reading a book. Just showing I have friends is a plus.

  • teigitur

    I m not sure how to respond to that….Could it be said that you are happy with, and spend most of your time in, your own company?

  • Deodatus

    So well said.  A child with Down’s Syndrome so often has a very special, very vulnerable ability to love and express and receive love.  In this way, such a child adds so much to his world and is indeed a very clear reflection of the nature of God’s urgent love for each of us.  Abortion is the profoundest slap in the face of Divine Love – in the death of this or any child by   this means.

  • cullenD

    I’ll admit I skimmed your reply, as soon as you admit you tend to “talk the talk, but not walk the walk.”

  • cullenD

    Sorry, see where you are rightly confused. I have two and a half social lives. I go out once a month or so into Dublin and that gets hectic ( gay pubs, nightclubs, new places, etc).

    I have a place midway where no-one in the town knows me, but I’m a regular in the bookshop and pub (of my choice). 

    Then, there’s the village I live in where I keep to myself, but am of course “known”. Everyone knows I live there, so I’m very choosy about which of my friends I invite. So, as you said, I’m most happy with my own company, and a book and a good pint. Only my trusted friends and family are allowed into that and of course they rarely visit a small village.

    So it’s quite strange for people to see a guy who rarely talks but reads twice a week (or so) to suddenly have 
    close personal friends. Let alone attractive lesbian women.

  • Leticia Velasquez

    I know what you mean! My daughter with Down syndrome can be stubborn but she has nothing on the deliberate foot dragging and invincible ignorance of the bureaucracies; educational, medical or social service with which her father and I have to do battle!

  • Leticia Velasquez

    You are absolutely right when you say that how a society treats a child with a disability says more about the quality of that society than anything else. Dr Lejeune agrees, as he said, 
    “We need to be clear; the quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members. There is no other criterion. “

  • Leticia Velasquez

    Rick Gervais is also famous for calling people “Mongs” while mocking those with Down syndrome. Nice role model you have.