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Baby Born Without a Face

  1. Dec 15, 2004 #1

    russ_watters

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    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-12-14-baby-no-face_x.htm
    Very sad.

    Why did I post this in philosophy? Here's why:
    This girl apparently has a normal brain, but is in for a really rough life. Will she ever eat normally? Will she ever breathe normally? Perhaps the doctors don't even know yet.

    My question: should the doctors/parents have just let her die?
     
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  3. Dec 15, 2004 #2

    russ_watters

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    Toughie, I know...
     
  4. Dec 15, 2004 #3

    Kerrie

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    i don't think society should make that decision, but those who are raising this child should.
     
  5. Dec 15, 2004 #4
    Wow...this is a tough one.

    I don't think that anybody should just let her die, she is a human being just like the rest of us. She has the potential to lead a good human life, though definitely not "normal." When her time comes, she will die, humans are mortal beings, but wouldn't simply letting her die be an act of euthanasia?
     
  6. Dec 15, 2004 #5

    arildno

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    This really has very little to do with the euthanasia-debate:
    A fundamental premise there (for proponents like myself), is that the individual himself is ASKING for help to end his life.
    Delimiting the cases where euthanasia is socially acceptable, is quite a different debate than:
    In which cases is it allowed to end a person's life without consulting that person?
    This is basically an issue in the second category, not the first.
     
  7. Dec 16, 2004 #6

    Kerrie

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    if we have the technology to keep a child alive that has made it to full term but is deformed, we have the responsibility and obligation to him or her...science cannot play favorites, but must serve all in the most ethical manner. plastic surgeries will most likely be a huge part of this child's life, but if the parents or guardians are willing to deal with this huge obligation, then more power to them...

    my half brother is an 11 year old autistic child with down's syndrome...he had heart surgery at the tender age of 4 months. without this surgery, he would have died, and to this day, he leads a good life. my parents are not without serious obstacles as far as behavioral and physical ones go, but their willingness to provide him the best life they can takes a lot more courage then most realize.
     
  8. Dec 16, 2004 #7
    Three quick thoughts:

    1) Many people who resist the idea of forced "mercy killing" do so because of the slippery slope involved: If such killings are allowed on any basis, then there are only arbitrary rational obstacles to prevent them being allowed in every case. We are all quick to cite Helen Keller in circumstances like this - and we should. Does this baby struggle to survive? Of course!

    2) The value of a human life is not constrained to what it can experience. The value of a human life is also found in how it can impact others. Many people only learn charity, sympathy, and self-sacrifice because they are forced to care for a disabled person. (And, by the way, as Dr. Singer would observe: Some of the most disabled people in the world are newborn infants.)

    3) Your view of the origin of this baby's life will provide the basis of how you deal with it. If you think that this life was (like all human lives) a mere accident, then there is no particular moral weight to the possibility of another "accident" occurring which ends the baby's life.

    Pascal said something like, "No theory of life is complete which does not deal with the grotesque." I would rejoin, "No theory of morality is complete which does not promote compassion for the disabled."
     
  9. Dec 16, 2004 #8

    russ_watters

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    Fair enough: try to put yourself in their shoes - or the shoes of the child. edit: I guess you kinda answered it...

    This question probably does come down to religion a little - depends on what you think happens after death.

    I'm not sure what I would do if I were her parents. If I knew during the pregnancy that something was that wrong, I'd probably want to end it. After the child is born though, its tough.
     
  10. Dec 16, 2004 #9

    Kerrie

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    typically during the pregnancy, many tests are performed, such as an ultrasound, and deformities like these can be detected. this is the time when the parent can make that difficult decision. not all are detected prior to birth, and in that case, the parent could always choose adoption. although that seems like "dumping the child" off on society, it may be to big of a burden for the parent to give a special needs child the kind of care they need and deserve.
     
  11. Dec 16, 2004 #10

    Kerrie

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    After doing some reading on this syndrome (called Treacher Collins Syndrome), there seems to be nothing wrong with intelligence, just a physcial deformity that happens to be very noticeable. Is this anydifferent then a child born without fingers or legs? What about the genetic problems such as Turner's syndrome which doesn't affect looks all that much but prevents a woman from ever being able to birth a child? This isn't found out usually until puberty (maybe earlier nowadays). For a doctor to allow a child with physical deformities that will amount to only being cosmetic in their later life is purely irresponsible medicine in my opinion. Perhaps it was more necessary 60 years ago when medical technology was in its infancy, but today no.
     
  12. Dec 16, 2004 #11

    russ_watters

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    Well yeah, there is a difference: being born without fingers or legs isn't fatal without heroic, long term medical treatment. At 2 years old, this girl still can't eat and only breathes through a trach tube.
     
  13. Dec 16, 2004 #12
    So then, rather than discussing whether we should save this baby, should we not rather be grateful that we have the capacity to save her?
     
  14. Dec 16, 2004 #13

    Kerrie

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    how is this any different then one being confined to a wheelchair for an amount of time? my brother had to eat through a tube for a few years until he learned how to eat properly, and i consider his mental condition much worse! no offense russ, but i don't sense a whole lot of compassion...or maybe it's just because this sort of thing hits close to my own personal experience and i am a parent.
     
  15. Dec 17, 2004 #14

    russ_watters

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    Just to be clear, I honestly don't know what I would do if I were in her parents' position. I am playing a little bit of the devil's advocate. At the same time, I like being a healthy/functional member of society. I can't be sure that had I lived my entire life on artificial life support that I wouldn't resent even being born.
    Being confined to a wheelchair isn't imminently fatal.
    I am thankful for medical science, but that doesn't change the fact that it has created moral dilemas that wouldn't otherwise exist. Extremely premature babies are another example. Long-term life support for coma patients are another example.

    I'm looking at this issue from the euthenasia perspective: is life ever so painful that it is not worth living?

    Imagine you were burned in a fire over 90% of your body. Odds are, you're going to die immediatly, but through heroic measures you are saved and stabilized. Odds are, you are still going to die within the next couple of weeks of massive infection, but in the meantime you will spend every moment conscious and in excruciating, agonnizing pain.

    At what point (if any) is it better to just cash in your chips and leave the table?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2004
  16. Dec 17, 2004 #15
  17. Dec 17, 2004 #16
    Heroism is best exercised by the suffering individual. Society's responsibility is to keep the person as comfortable as possible.

    Mental illnesses like mine have probably existed for >100,000 years. In the last two generations effective treatments have been formulated. Without them I may well have committed suicide. (Even with treatment, ~10% do.) Given another generation, a genetic cure may be found.

    Was the hell I have gone through much of the past 26 years worthwhile? For the moment, yes!

    I visit at a local nursing home a man who is blind, incontinent, tube-fed and bed-ridden, but often appreciates my presence. Considering his situation, he is one of the most gracious people I know. He has been suffering about ten years, although near the end of his life. Beside his medical conditions, his main problem, and for many of those institutionalized, is the ignorance (like the absence of visitors) by the community.

    If we cannot cater to the basic needs of those in pain, how can we entrust the decision to euthanize with relative strangers (or often callous family) to the person in question? It seems that we spend more effort to delay capital punishment than to assist humanely those terminally ill.

    Coincidentally, I found this on the web, #1 result for "euthanize" on Google.
     
  18. Dec 17, 2004 #17
    Were I planted in a completely primitive environment without any artificial assitance, I would certainly not survive it. My eyesight is so poor that I must have vision correction to engage in even the simplest of life pursuits. I am grateful that I have both corrective lenses and a social construct around me to keep me alive and to give me the chance to contribute - which, I think, I have done well for years, and which I hope to continue to do for years. Technology and society have turned me from a nonsurvival case into a very contributive member.

    We all live suboptimal lives. In my opinion, it's all a matter of degrees - which is why I stand up for the right to life of the profoundly disabled - especially those who cannot speak for themselves.
     
  19. Dec 17, 2004 #18

    Kerrie

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    Russ, you have to remember, this baby in the article will know nothing else but how she looks. It's not like she lived her life "normal" and then suddenly had this deformity. So growing up with this deformity may be difficult only in the sense that she understands others (who think they are "normal") think she is hideous and they couldn't deal with themselves looking like herself. Maybe that is more painful then actually how she looks.

    Your perception of how horrible it must be to have such a deformity stems from your own perception of being "normal". Perhaps those born with any kind of physical or mental deformity feel "normal" to themselves? I am not just making a reference to the baby in the article, but to a wide variety of individuals that our glamour seeking society would otherwise judge as outcasts. Instead of making these people feel separate from us, we need to gain some deeper qualities they possess beyond a well sculpted face and "normal" functions.

    Did Stephen Hawking's Motor Neurone Disease stop him from being a wonderful and extremely contributory member of humanity? Certainly not! No, he was not born with the disease, but he did understand what it was like to be "normal" at one time, yet still carried on to the best of his abilities.
     
  20. Dec 18, 2004 #19
    What a situation. Sometimes, no matter what you do there is no 'happy outcome'. Abort the foetus? Let the infant die? Give her lots of surgery, that she has no say in, hoping that she will look reasonably normal eventually?

    Not wanting to change the subject, but at times you have to wonder how this stuff fits into God's plan. I suppose we can learn from this situations (in terms of morality and medicine), but do the lessons have to be so tough?
     
  21. Dec 18, 2004 #20
    I guess the happy outcome is the child becomes happy and well adjusted. I suppose I overlooked this one as I think its hard enough to achieve these given most circumstances, let alone years of surgery, social problems (children can be cruel) etc.
     
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