Monday, August 31, 2009

Heavy discussion for Monday

Ok, I have a moral dilemma question for you. Hypothetical, but one I recently had a discussion about with a friend of mine, and I wanted to get some other viewpoints.

Anyway, the situation is this. Say you and your partner are trying to have a child, but not desperately. You fall pregnant (or your partner does, whichever), and you have all the usual tests done to see if the baby is ok. Nothing is picked up. The child is born and is severely disabled to the point where he or she will require 24 hour care for the rest of their life and will never be able to do anything of their own volition, even with assistance. One of you (either you or your partner) knows they are not the sort of person to be able to deal with this situation, and knows they will just end up resenting the child and completely snapping in 10 years and smothering it with a pillow because you're/they're so frustrated at having to care for it 24 hours a day and having no life. There is also the argument that such a life is no real life for a child.

Is it wrong and completey selfish to give it up for adoption, knowing there are other people out there far better equipped to deal with such a child than you, but also knowing there is a very great possibility the child will never be adopted?

Alternatively, if the tests did find out the child was going to be disabled severely, is it awfully wrong to terminate it and try again (assuming abortion is legal in your state)?

32 comments:

Miche said...

Termination: yes, because the quality of that child's life will not be good. A horrible decision to have to make but a necessary one.

Adoption? Dunno. Very tricky one.

NB: all of these opinions are coming to you from someone who is not that interested in having children of her own. In the 'not fussed' category I guess, so I would see things differently from those people who have actually *had* offspring

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I think any parent would do what they think would be best for their child; whether that was adoption or intensive care at home.

I don't think any potential parent could make the call about abortion until they were actually placed in that position.

And thank you very much for the owl, Puss - it is magnificently hideous. I have it on my work desk to remind me of the evil of owls.

Perseus said...

I prefer my usual Monday morning posts about footy and lame attempts to get sex. This is way too heavy for a Monday morning...

I think it all comes down to the parents, and what they decide, at the time.

People that I know who have kids with special needs don't appear to love their kids less or more than parents with 'normal' kids, so, I dunno, your question doesn't seem to take into account primal animal urges, such as: loving one's offspring, and caring for them.

But, the question about whether or not to terminate if you know in advance... I have no idea what I would do or think in such a circumstance.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Didn't the Tiges get an absolute pantsing?

Again?

Perseus said...

Yes, Richmond were thrashed, and I could have had sex but stuffed it up. In other words, a normal weekend.

Did you get my present in the envelope as well? If not, I hope you haven't thrown away the envelope.

squib said...

Puss, ah a hard one. I think a couple in this situation should have a third choice as we have for elderly people. That is, you don't have to disown your child in order to get proper care for that child. The current system in respect to parents with children requiring 24 hour care is a crying shame

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I did indeed Pers, many thanks.

It bought back memories of trying to read this prick for my Russian history units at Uni.

I asked the lecturer whether Lenin was this dull in the original or whether it was the translation.

His response was "he's even worse in Russian".

Melba said...

Puss. I remember my opinion about abortion FOR MYSELF, not others, changing once I'd had my daughter. I knew it would be probably impossible for me to have one, if I had an unplanned pregnancy.

But for this situation, it would depend on the extent of the care required. The picture you paint is very dismal so in that case, I probably would abort. No quality of life for the child and dreadful circumstances for the parents.

I worked with kids with disabilities years ago, and that changed my thinking about this sort of thing. Some of those kids were so fantastic, you could see how they weren't a resented burden on their family, they were be a wonderful asset. But other kids, with worse disabilities; you could see how the parents struggled and it had just ruined their lives.

My blunt answer would be I'd terminate if I was certain the level of functioning would be close to zero, or with severe impairment. Adoption wouldn't work, not many would want it.

It comes down to your own feelings about it. If abortion is legal, and if you don't believe in God and sin and all that shit, then you only have your own conscience to answer to. And I don't think it would be right to ask someone to stay and parent. It's a person's right to change their minds.

Puss In Boots said...

Ramon - all good. He's from Guatemala. I had also gotten you another one from Ecuador, but it was destroyed by Customs.

Pers - I think even if you do instinctly love your offspring, if you had to care for something (anything) for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and give up your life for it, wouldn't you become frustrated? Obviously there are people out there who are better equipped to deal with that situation than others. I just think I wouldn't be one of them. I'm selfish, and the thought of having 'normal' children terrifies me, let alone a child with needs above those of the average child.

Oh, and I have half a draft of my Monday Art Appreciation post done, but for some bizarre reason, my boss actually wants me to do some work.

Puss In Boots said...

Melba, are you saying that if they didn't pick anything up, and you had the child, that you wouldn't adopt it out because you knew no one would adopt it?

I mean, I don't really know how adoptions work. Once you say you want to put it up for adoption, what happens? It's not conditional, right? It's not like the authorities say, "ok, well once we find someone, we'll come and collect the child" right?

So if you knew there was no chance of it being adopted, you'd keep it and lower your own quality of life? I think that's a rather selfless thing to do. I'm not sure I could do it myself. I'm a heartless cow, after all.

Lewd Bob said...

I agree with all of those who said it's the parents' choice. Of course it is. Personally, I'd be hitting the abort button. I can barely cope with the life restrictions imposed by one perfectly healthy child.

Melba said...

I wasn't clear Puss, sorry. I think I would adopt it out but if the child was incredibly disabled, I don't know who'd want it. People generally don't want to adopt certain children - older ones remain in overseas orphanages while the younger ones get snapped up sooner. And health issues always make it problematic. I don't even know if Australia has much adoption going on any more, now that it's more socially acceptable to have the baby.

I'm not selfless, don't think that. But I wouldn't know what my decision was until I saw the baby I guess, that might make a difference. Also all that planning for 9 months, I just don't know what I'd do. But if, in utero, it was clear there were major problems, I'd probably abort it.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Almost nobody puts their children up for adoption these days.

Certainly not in Victoria, anyway.

WitchOne said...

Well, you could always find some unemployed bimbo who would want the government money for having a disabled baby. Oh, yeah, crap, back to the whole quality of life thing.

Personally, if I had warning it'd be the abort button.

If it was a shocking surprise and they wouldn't take it away from me, I'd leave it behind and run like hell! They can't MAKE you keep it can they??

Yeah yea, I am also inherently selfish, I love my babies but if they stand still too long I start asking them if they're ok and are they having that final growth spurt that will see them moving out of him in the foreseeable future. Apparently at 1 and 4 that's not even close to happening but I don't believe in losing hope.

Mr E Discharge said...

Witchy,
Given that you already have two kids
and with donor organs so scarce in Australia, it might be worth keeping it for spare parts.

patchouligirl said...

I think there are two factors that would influence the decision that are unrelated to the impact on the parents lives. Firstly weighing the impact on other siblings lives and secondly and relevant in the case of older parents, will the parents live long enough to care for a disabled child for the rest of its life?

WitchOne said...

As a failed egg donor (don't even ask, shithouse situation in all ways) I had this discussion with my recipients as it come up in counselling as a potential issue. Fair enough too, how would I feel if they had a disabled kid? How would I feel if they decided to terminate because of it etc and so on? Ultimately this is a decision that can only be made by the parents of such an unfortunate child.

I say that and sound like a sanctimonious bitch but in all reality, we value perfection above all else, perfection in mind and body is preferred but we'll take body as a last resort because minds don't hang it all out in public to make the rest of us question ourselves and pity the imperfect person.

So. I told my recipients to do as they saw fit. Ultimately they forced me into cancelling the donation at the 3rd go round so maybe they weren't ready or willing to take the risk of success, partial or otherwise. Who knows.

Frankly I know I couldn't handle it, not just because of my selfishness but also because my goal is ensure my children grow into self supporting adults with all talents nurtured to the best of my ability and wallet. I do not anticipate my "job" of wiping shitty bums and snotty noses to continue indefinitely. I don't believe any parent wants a permanent baby and if they do, well, isn't that most selfish goal of all?

WitchOne said...

Sorry for the waffle.

Spare parts you say Mr E? Good point! Worth considering, however, these days you can have kids specifically for spare parts so maybe I'll just wait and see hmm??

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

"Your spleen - give it to me".

Kettle said...

Interesting question, Puss. My son, who's three and a half, was recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. At this stage we don't know how good/bad it is because a lot will change will 'normal' development and it also depends on his ability to learn so at this stage we're hopeful but wary of hoping too much.

As he's not severely disabled I wouldn't adopt him out now but if I knew before he was born that he would be autistic (to an unknown degree) would I abort? Yes. That's not about not loving him, I love him fiercely, but if he wasn't existant in the outside world and I didn't know him as a person I would question the child's (his) ability to be happy as well as my own ability to be happy once the situation of (intensive) care arose.

I'm lucky (in a way) that my son's condition is neurological rather than physical because there's less bodily care required of me (he's learning to use the toilet, he can feed himself, etc). But what I find (and like the people in your hypothetical) is the time: there is very little me in our days because he needs me to do pretty much everything with him. And not just for one day, but every day; that's the hard bit (to be perfectly blunt and selfish). I know small kids need you to do everything with them anyway but it may always be like that with him, we don't know.

I don't think having a high care child means you have to be a martyr. If you have the skills, temperament, desire and financial backing to be a 24-hour a day carer then so be it. If the hypothetical parent(s) don't think they can live like that and thus aren't able to provide care to a child who needs that sort of help then they're probably not the best person/people for the child anyway. There are always options. One partner leaving may suck but it is an option, as is adoption (which may also suck).

Whatever happens it will mean a lifetime of sadness at some level. I hope your hypothetical parents find a solution of some kind.

Puss In Boots said...

Thanks Kettle.

I'm not sure I would abort for an autism spectrum disorder though, especially considering I have one (aspergers). Although I'm fairly lucky in that mine is rather mild (but only because of hours and hours of counselling, therapy and other treatments). I can function almost completely normally in society, and most people don't know I have anything wrong with me, unless I tell them. Although some do pick up on the fact that I am a little 'quirky'.

However, I can see your point about autism. My god parents have an autistic daughter who cannot function in society and is completely shut off from the world. I know how frustrated they feel. But can they pick up on such 'disabilities' in the womb? And if so, can they predict which end of the spectrum the child will fall at?

I do believe for autism and other spectrum disorders, depending on the case, counselling and therapy do assist, so I suppose that would be a really tough one for me to consider. Especially given my own high-level functioning. I'd be hesitant to abort in case the child turned out to be at my end of the scale, instead of the other.

Kettle said...

Oh dear Puss could I be anymore of a schmuck. I'm sorry, my comments were completely insensitive. You know, because my son has only recently been diagnosed and we've just started therapy I can't see beyond today. I think with all the unknowns I'm tending towards the worse case scenario (and the melodramatic) so probably a bit lost up my own arse at the moment. I'm sorry.

You're absolutely right. It's not possible to test for autism in the womb and there's nothing to say a person on the autism spectrum isn't going to fall on the higher end. In saying I'd abort I guess I'm having a selfish whine about my life before versus now.

Sorry again.

patchouligirl said...

This came up when they asked me if I wanted an amniocentesis (sorry if I misspelt that) for my pregnancy with Jack (aged 40). The risk of downs syndrome was 1 in 170, the risk of miscarriage from the amnio was 1 in 100 (and I had already had a miscarriage). We had a coffee, I cried and said 'this might be the only chance we have to have a child - lets not take any risks'. I also felt that there was nothing wrong with Jack and fortunately was right. It occurred to me at the time that while the amnio would detect downs syndrome, it would not detect autism, blindness, deafness or tell us whether our child would get cancer at age 5 or be run over at age 10. The whole thing is a leap of faith really.

I have a friend who has a down syndrome son who is now about 35, and he is a terrific guy who has enriched her life rather than diminished it. We are all very fond of him and he has a very good quality of life.

Puss In Boots said...

Oh no Kettle, I wasn't having a go at you, and there's no need for you to apologise for your thoughts. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion around here.

And besides, I think you've hit on the crux of the matter. What is one person's intolerable is another person's manageable. I'm sure there are heaps of people out there who, if there was such a test, would abort if there was a high risk their child had autism. I don't take offence to that. I would expect someone to have the same respect for my opinion in saying that I would definitely abort if there was even a slim chance my child had Downs Sydnrome. That can be a similar disorder, where some sufferers can function practically normally, and others are heavily dependant on carers, but it's not really the sort of disability I could deal with.

So yeah, all good. You can rant all you like. I'm not offended at all.

Kettle said...

Thanks Puss.

I think I struggle with this topic because there isn't any middle ground. You hope it doesn't happen to you but then when it does (at an unknown level) you wish it hadn't, thus the desire for the magic reset button.

I know how harsh it sounds to say I'd abort but I think I'm writing out of a range of fears, worries and confusions: worries that my little boy will be ok (not spend his life anxious and isolated) and that he will find people to love and be loved by, confusion about the responses of some people around me (like my sister who thinks it's best her son and mine don't have any contact for a while), and fears that my son will be looked after or be able to look after himself when I'm not here.

I guess these are all fears everyone has about anyone they care for, child, adult, autistic, neuro-typical, physically disabled or not. I think it's time for me to forget the categorisation that comes with a diagnosis of anything and get on with it. Thanks for the hypothetical.

Melba said...

Sorry Kettle. Your sister doesn't want her son and yours to see each other for a while?

This might be prying and insensitive, but why? And so hurtful to you, and confusing for your boy and her's.

People have their different reactions but that sounds very sad.

Kettle said...

Thanks Melba. It is sad, and unexpected. My sister lives interstate and we visited her recently. It's been a while since I last took my son to stay with her. She has a two and a half year old boy who's very busy and enthusiastic around other kids and he kept leaping at my son, trying to wrestle, hug him etc. It was all very sweet and well-meaning of course but every now and then my son would get upset (cry) and run away. My sister was upset that her son would be hurt because the enthusiasm wasn't being reciprocated so she pretty much shut down in the situation and made it clear we were no longer welcome to stay.

It all seems a bit ridiculous in 100 words or less, but there it is. I guess she felt she was protecting her son but I was shocked by the instant tunnelling of her vision.

Although her reaction seems extra-ordinary to me, I'm sure it makes sense to her. On the other hand, I've seen my son every day so witnessed the gradual changes in his behaviour. It's a lesson to me to be more aware and not make assumptions.

wari lasi said...

I'm sorry I missed this debate.

In short. Yep, I'd abort. We had some friends with a seriously disabled daughter and it ruined their marriage and completely dominated their lives for the 11 years she survived. For the record though, Mrs L vehemently disagrees with me.

Kettle, your sister is a dick. Sorry.

Brisbane has been so warm (got here last Thursday) but it's turned cold today.

kitten said...

The wish for a "magic reset button" for a life without a child, even though you love the one you have, is not as awful or uncommon as you think, and is not limited to discovering you have a sick or disabled child. I think many women feel this way about how their lives turned out.

I know women who have quietly admitted, that in the face of an unplanned pregnancy, they wished they had had an abortion rather than having kept the child. And their children were perfectly healthy. Sometimes being a single mother, or a very young mother, puts you on a life track that you wished you could get off, but can't.

Unfortunately the downsides of parenting are rarely spoken about, every one assumes children are a "blessing" and ignores the "burdens".

Kettle said...

This hypothetical has been on my mind all week. Frankly I'm ashamed; ashamed because I referred to my son and deeply ashamed that I would even presume I could offer any kind of answer to the question. If anything, having a child with 'extra' needs makes me less qualified to comment than someone without a child (or without such a child). I can't say "yes, I'd abort" because my horizon of understanding includes my son. In fact, I'm horrified with myself for saying it, even in response to a hypothetical about a hypothetical child. It's been wrong all week.

So, what would I do in this situation? I really don't know.

I like what patchouligirl said: "The whole thing is a leap of faith really." I also like Squib's point that there needs to be a viable third option in Australia: excellent support and care for families with severely disabled children, beyond the family as needed.

Apologies for unloading my personal crises in this usually super entertaining comments section. I've appreciated the space to think this through.

Cheers.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Cripes Kettle!

I hope we haven't given you any grief.

That's usually reserved for people we don't like.

Kettle said...

Ha ha, Ramon! A site with a grief-giving policy is a mighty fine site indeed.