Sunday, May 27, 2007

A tale of sadness and hope...

I am having a rare moment of a lazy morning at home on the Sabbath. No, I'm not skipping mass for the sake of a good lie-in (that would be a mortal sin)--it is my intention to attend the Latin Novus Ordo mass at St Brigid's in Fitzroy tonight at 6pm.

So, I have the opportunity of reading the Sunday Age from cover to cover (minus the Sports pages, of course). And there I found this story which was at once sad and hopeful: "We could not ask for more", a side article in another article called "Gene genie: fresh hope in bones battle". It is about at Melbourne couple who both have the dominant gene of the disorder that "was once called 'dwarfism'". The story is that whenever they conceive a child, there is a one-in-four chance that that child will have a fatal genetic flaw that will cause it to die either before birth (resulting in a still-birth) or soon afterwards. The hopeful part of the story is that this (I think) heroic couple are determined to have a family despite these odds--and in fact do now have two children. The sad part of the story (and believe me I am not passing judgement here--just expressing sadness at what must be a terrible choice for these parents) is this paragraph:
"We always said we'd go ahead with the pregnancy as long as there was no fatality with the double dose [of both our genes]," Mrs Daniels said. Meghan is now a happy four-year-old, and Max a healthy baby. But between the two births there was much anguish as, with a second and third pregnancy, each unborn baby had the double dose and the pregnancies had to be terminated as there was no hope of the babies living.
Its that last line of "the pregnancies had to be terminated as there was no hope of the babies living" that gets me. As the article says:
They had the advantage of early warning of the genetic bone disorder, thanks to the discovery of a gene by Associate Professor Ravi Savarirayan.

"By having the knowledge, we didn't have to go through having stillborns," Mrs Daniels said. "We grieved earlier..."
In the midst of life there was death--and the inevitable grief--but what the technology made available was an early clinical death at the hands of the technologists rather than a later natural death as a result of the genetic disorder. I can understand that the former would be less traumatic. I just don't know that it necessarily makes the situation any better.

4 Comments:

At Thursday, May 31, 2007 1:03:00 pm , Blogger LYL said...

If my (ex-utero) child were to be diagnosed with a terminal disease, would the doctors recommend killing him/her now since it will happen later anyway?

I wouldn't want that, you wouldn't either if it were your child and the doctors wouldn't even consider it as it is manifestly ridiculous.

So it is with a "termination."

Which is not to say that I don't empathise with the couple and their grief. It's just that the position is completely irrational.

 
At Friday, June 01, 2007 2:40:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

Not completely irrational, I think. David acknowledges that the early termination is less traumatic (for the parents) than carrying the child to term, but asks whether that necessarily makes the situation any better. His question is a good one, but the fact that the early termination does reduce the trauma of the parents – or, at the very least, they hope or expect it will – does mean that their decision is not irrational. It is rational if their objective is, or their objectives include, to minimise their own trauma.

And in fact we can point to another positive outcome. It is highly probable that an early termination means a death which involves less physical suffering and psychological distress for the child than being the death which he or she will suffer if nature is left to take its course, and that provides another rational basis for the decision. If the termination is early enough, it is probable that the child will experience no suffering or distress at all.

If we assert, as I think we must, that abortion is in objective terms the wrong choice even in a situation like this, I think we have to do so by admitting that, viewed in isolation, avoiding the trauma of the parents and the suffering and distress of the child are in themselves good things, but there is a still greater good which is (and must be) served by allowing the child to live his or her life. As Christians we can say that life has a point, a meaning and a value which justifies trauma, suffering and distress.

But it is asking a lot to expect these parents (who may not be Christians – I don’t know) to accept that. By accepting that ideal and living up to it they will not only accept a burden of trauma themselves, but they will impose a probable burden of suffering and distress on their child, a consequence which most parents will do anything to avoid. Their choice not to carry the child may be, in objective moral terms, the wrong choice but it is certainly not irrational.

I think the challenge for us is to articulate for the world the transcendent value of life in these circumstances, in a way that the world can appreciate and accept. No offence, Lyl, but I don’t think we do that by describing this decision as “irrational”.

 
At Friday, June 01, 2007 6:19:00 pm , Blogger LYL said...

Not completely irrational, I think. David acknowledges that the early termination is less traumatic (for the parents) than carrying the child to term, but asks whether that necessarily makes the situation any better.

Sorry, but that seems unlikely to me. Whatever "gain" might be had in bumping off the baby early, by having had less time to become attached to him/her, will surely be outweighed by the knowledge that the baby has died by the will of the parents. It is one thing to lose your child. It's quite another to decide to have him/her killed. This is where my assertion of irrationality comes in.

Compassion without reference to any other virtue or to right reason is nothing more than cruelty.

This is where the postmodern concept of "compassion" is so warped.

Postmoderns seem to only have compassion for one party (and usually not the greater victim).

 
At Friday, June 01, 2007 6:25:00 pm , Blogger LYL said...

I think the challenge for us is to articulate for the world the transcendent value of life in these circumstances, in a way that the world can appreciate and accept. No offence, Lyl, but I don’t think we do that by describing this decision as “irrational”.

That may be the case, although I have not written a treatise to traumatised parents, I am merely making a comment in David's combox.

Having said that, there may also be times and places to point out the truth to people. Our Lord didn't mince words.

I take your point that we need to articulate for the world the transcendent value of life in these circumstances but I doubt this will or won't happen based on what I write in a combox.

 

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