Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Potentially Controversial Issue--Newborns with Terminal Illnesses and the Nature of Choice

Okay, so I know that this is not the most uplifting of topics, but it's one near and dear to my heart. Through our experience with Christopher as well as other circles of my life, I have come to know so many wonderful families who have had to face the tragic death of a child.

The New York Times online has an article today about hospices for babies...and they are little-known, wonderful resources for families having to face this issue:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/health/13hospice.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

When I was pregnant with Nicholas last year, the anatomical ultrasound at 20 weeks showed a soft marker for Trisomy 18, which is the disease that Alaina (in the article) has. Although Nicholas was as healthy as I could have hoped for at birth, we faced some serious fears that our chance of having a very sick baby had increased. We chose to focus on the overwhelmingly higher chance that he would be fine...and indeed he was...but we were only too aware that things can go wrong in pregnancies.

With both of the babies I had over 35 (Kieran at 38 and Nicholas at 41), we chose not to have an amniocentesis. One interesting point in this article is that it talks about two of the families who are Roman Catholic and pro-abortion rights, but that they chose to go ahead with their pregnancies even though they knew that their baby would most likely die.

I can truly relate to this viewpoint. When I got pregnant very unexpectedly with Nicholas, I read that 65 percent of unintended pregnancies in women over 40 end in abortion. I'm strongly pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights, but in my own case I never even considered it. The reason for that is based in my own belief that everything has a reason and God has a plan for my life...which is also the way I view Christopher's very early prematurity and traumatic birth. Beyond that, though, I also confess to some ambivalence about abortion, having given birth to a 24-weeker.

From a socioeconomic, spiritual, and compassionate perspective, I believe that abortion is WAY better than bringing an unwanted child into this world who might end up emotionally or physically abused. It's a necessary option in this world of ours.

I tend to be able to view an issue from all sides (must be the Libra in me), and I feel the same way about informing parents of their options when they have a very sick micropreemie. Doctors and nurses need to find a way to respectfully and carefully let parents know that their babies might not turn out perfectly...without taking away the parents' hopes that everything could indeed turn out okay. Just as I view abortion as a complex issue with shades of gray, I also believe that each parent and family must be supported in their decision whether to resuscitate or prolong life in a baby whose future survival is unknown or at risk...

This is my first controversial post. What are your views on this matter? Click the "Comments" link below to express your opinion.

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