Keep Your Morality Out of My Doctor’s Office

Breaking today: the Texas Senate passed, 21-9, a bill that is supposed to prevent parents from suing a doctor if their child is born with disabilities. Proponents of the law say they just want to “protect the sanctity of life,” and that parents of children with disabilities may, if they are informed of the disabilities prior to birth, chose to have an abortion instead of giving the baby a chance.

They say they want to be respectful of the disabled. And it’s true that many, many disabled babies go on to live productive and fulfilling lives.

But not all of them do. And withholding critical information from parents-to-be not only seems to fly in the face of the very oath that doctors take, but also prevents parents from making important decisions about how to care for their children.

Let me present you with different versions of the same scenario (totally not hypothetical, at least not at first).

The scene: two parents go in for their 20-week ultrasound for their twin girls. Everything seems fine, but it actually isn’t.

Version 1: The doctor sees several anomalies with one baby, some of which will likely cause issues with the second, totally healthy baby. He recognizes that both babies could be in very real danger, so he sits the parents down, tells them his findings, and recommends they get second and third opinions. Those second and third opinions confirm the findings, and both of those additional doctors talk with the parents about their options. The parents could terminate one baby, or, knowing the diagnoses, they could get together a team of the best pediatric neurosurgeons in the state and have them at the ready when it comes time for delivery. They’ll work hard to save the ill baby while the healthy baby is taken care of in the NICU. Even with the right preparation, it’s like the sick baby will only survive on the order of weeks, though, so the parents need to be prepared for the reality of losing a baby to very painful suffering after numerous surgeries.

Version 2: The doctor sees several anomalies with one baby, some of which will likely cause issues with the second, totally healthy baby. He recognizes that both babies could be in very real danger, but he knows that if he tells the parents this, they could choose to terminate one or both babies. His own conscience cannot allow this. So instead of telling the parents of the diagnoses, he tells them everything looks fine and sends them on their way. Weeks later, the mother goes into very early labor due to the developmental issues that the doctor did not tell the parents about. Now both babies are in very real peril, and the one that was very sick passes away very quickly because there were no preparations made for surgeries or care of any kind.

Tell me, which would you prefer? Even if you’re pro-life? I imagine every parent-to-be would want to know what to expect upon delivery, if only to begin to make preparations for what life will be like, to get a team together to take the medical measures necessary. To withhold this information from parents is irresponsible at a minimum and completely flies in the face of the morality that they’re going for.

This perceived morality that lawmakers are functioning under is dangerous. And terrifying. I think of myself as a moral person. But I do not think that I have a right to say what choices a parent makes in the best interests of their child. If I knew of a parent whose born child was on life support due to some traumatic injury or terminal illness, I would expect their doctors to provide them with all of the information they could to help that parent make the best decision possible. I would want that parent to have the ability to make the decision to end that child’s suffering, if they felt that was best. And they can. So why is it any different for an unborn child?

Oh right. Morality. All babies want to be born. Or something like that.

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