Monday, January 6, 2014

Are our children "tragedies"?

The plaintiff mother and her child [Seattle Times]
Is it wrong to refer to our children as "tragedies"? Does it diminish our love for them? Or detract from our devotion to their care and progress?

This debate is being waged in the wake of the largest individual damages award  in Washington state history.

In December 2013, a jury found for the parents of a child with physical and cognitive disabilities who sued for "wrongful birth". They determined the damages at $50 million.

The parents claimed that they would have aborted the pregnancy had the lab not erred and had they known of the fetus' genetic defect. Many readers found the parents views infuriating.

The defendants were the medical center that referred the parents for genetic tests and the lab that carried them out. The center's reaction included this apology:  "We are very sorry for the tragedy the Wuth family has suffered."

Use of the word "tragedy" also disturbed a number of readers.

Below are two, of many more, comments denouncing the Wuths:
Do we not value “life” anymore? This article quotes someone referring to the “child” as a “tragedy.” As a mother of a child with special needs, I see the value in all human beings and only God should determine who lives and when they shall die. Obviously this precious child lives with purpose, it’s just too bad his parents seem to think he isn’t worth life. I hope they have opened their hearts and minds, as that will be the true tragedy.
And this:
There are so many things that are a tragedy about this article, but the birth of this child is not one of them! Even the way this article is written is a sad commentary on our world. There are so many of us parents that are dealing with the special needs of our children on a continuous basis! My daughter is 7; she does not sit up by herself, nor run, nor speak ONE word! She will require help the rest of her life. However, she is the most joyful little person! She is far from a tragedy!
And then there are the articles guillotining them. Like this one.

I cannot imagine going to court and claiming that I was wronged because I wasn’t given the opportunity to exterminate the disabled child I now care for. It’s gruesome.

And it seems to me it sets a dangerous precedent. Could a parent who is displeased with their child over a child’s medical condition — assuming the condition could have been detected with prenatal testing — sue doctors and other medical professionals for failing to provide them with information that would have swayed them to abort their unborn child? Again: gruesome.

What parent goes to court to contend that justice requires that their baby, however damaged, should be dead? I don’t get it.

Answer: Parents who realizes that is the way to win such a huge award. It isn't relevant to the caliber of parenting or the amount of love they will shower on their child.

I'd love to hear what you think. Is it acceptable to regard our children as a tragedy?

I don't understand the harm in calling a spade a spade is. To concede that we are suffering, to be candid about our emotions, is not an indictment. How about you? Do you feel it's acceptable to regard our children as a tragedy?

An aside: In its article about the lawsuit, Disability Scoop termed the child's disabilities "profound".  The family's lawyer - surely the last person likely to downplay the child's impairments -  described them thus:
"Oliver, now age 5½, has an IQ of 50 to 70, can’t run, walk up stairs or talk beyond a few dozen words understandable to his parents." 
So where does that leave us? How can we convey our children's impairments? "Intensely/ acutely/ overwhelmingly profound"? Take your pick.

I'd go with "all of the above".

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