Pastor F. William Darrow
Notes From The Adult Classes 2006 Evening Vacation Bible School
Much of the material in this paper is taken from Vital Signs by Mark Blocher.
Webster’s definition of "infanticide": "The murder of an infant; one who murders an infant.
I remember when growing up that one day my mother kept a little baby girl through the day and maybe even overnight. Her name was Elaine. Her parents were active members of our little country church. The father also happened to be a brother to my older sister’s husband. I remember my mother saying to my father that something was wrong with little Elaine because her eyes did not seem to be functioning normally. I no longer remember the details of events and can only relate some of the outcome. It was eventually learned that little Elaine was born with a brain tumor. In time, she was taken to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where surgery was performed. At this point I cannot recall the success or failure of that surgery. What I do remember is this; she was not totally blind but had very little sight. She was never able to attend school even though she seemed to have a very unusual learning ability. She seemed to understand salvation at an extremely young age and did accept Christ at an early age. She memorized Scripture and would readily quote verses at church. In my memory right now I can hear her quoting Luke 19:10, "For the son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." She was the most loved person in our church. At a very young age, however, she went home to be with the Lord.
If Elaine had been born in Nazi Germany, she probably would have been euthanized. If she had been born today, though brain surgery is much advanced, the doctors might have suggested that her parents have her euthanized because, in some people’s thinking, she could never have any quality of life. May I just say that Elaine was a happy little girl who enjoyed life and gave joy to those around her.
We live in a day when there is very little regard for human life. Richard Lamm, the former governor of Colorado, said he did not approve of giving intensive medical treatment and therapy to babies who could only roll over after a full year of treatment. He believed that the money budgeted for such children would be better spent on those of higher quality of life. He also suggested that the elderly who are chronically ill and require ongoing, expensive medical care should accept their "duty to die" and get out of the way.
Peter Singer, a bioethicist from Australia, suggests that some newborns be killed at birth because they do not meet his criteria of "personhood".
Francis Crick, the Nobel laureate for his discovery of DNA, suggests that we not declare a newborn a "person" until three days after birth, following a battery of tests. He also wants society to adopt a mandatory death law for people past the age of 80.
James Watson, the man who cracked the genetic code, said, "If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice…the doctor could allow the child to die if the parent so chose and save a lot of misery and suffering". – Abortion Questions & Answers – Dr. & Mrs. Willke
Are there any examples of this? YES!
In 1982, Baby Doe of Bloomington, Indiana, was born with Down’s syndrome. His food pipe and windpipe were connected which could have been corrected with surgery. Because the baby had Down’s syndrome, the parents refused all treatment and the baby died. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the parent’s decision.
Also in 1982, Baby Jane Doe was born in New York with spina bifida and a potential hydrocephalus. Normally, they would have closed the spinal defect and put a shunt in to prevent hydrocephalus. When the parents learned that the baby might be mentally retarded, they refused surgery. Miraculously, skin grew over the spinal defect, closing it. The parents then agreed to have a shunt put in. While the baby lived, a federal judge ruled that the parents had the right to let the baby die without treatment.
In both of these cases, the parents were granted the right to take the baby’s life by withholding treatment. The babies were refused treatment because of a handicap.
Is there such a thing as life so burdensome that death is better? Are some lives "not worthy of being lived"? A growing number of medical professionals question whether they should spend time and money for imperiled newborns. They are uncertain where we should continue to use the technology currently implemented to save newborns when such babies often require a lifetime of special medical care. Can a society with limited health care resources be committed to saving everybody, regardless of the kind of life the child will lead?
Is it reasonable to save a severely handicapped child from death only to give him a life of surgeries, dependence on others, and being tethered to machines? Is it fair to save that life when it places enormous financial and emotional hardships on the family?
Neonatalogists and pediatricians face serious dilemmas. Unlike older patients, who have a medical history and are usually able to communicate for themselves, newborns represent a "clean slate". There is no backdrop to which progress or regress can be compared. The infant cannot tell us where he hurts. Prognosis is difficult since basic motor skills, mental capacity, and so on will not appear for months, if at all. Consequently, caregivers often face the difficulty of determining the long-term outcome of certain treatments. A physician may have no way of knowing whether his, or her, tiny patient will be a miracle survivor or a medical "burden".
A number of studies have been conducted to determine the "quality of life" enjoyed by neonatal survivors. A study conducted at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania researched a group of children born between 1973 and 1976 who had been born with serious impairments. The study followed them until they were forty months old. Thirty-five percent were handicapped, 17 percent severely. The severe handicaps included major visual impairments, hydrocephalus, and spastic quadriplegia, a form of cerebral palsy in which all four limbs are spastic. The study also revealed that those children who had been ventilated at birth (put on a respirator) had a 72 percent handicap rate, whereas those who had not been ventilated had a 19 percent handicap rate.
One might conclude that aggressive medical treatment of handicapped newborns is detrimental. In general, newborns less than 1000 grams(2.204 lbs.) birth weight who survive after aggressive neonatal care do have an increased likelihood of lifelong impairments or handicaps. However, many children survive with few or no impairments – children who would not have lived without aggressive care. What a tragedy if they were euthanized.
Children born at less than 650 grams (1.432 lbs.), generally have a 20 percent survival rate, with a 90 percent change of lifelong disability. That means 90 percent of those families will face continual medical treatment, surgeries, and so on if the child survives. However, there is a 10 percent chance that he will survive with no serious, lifelong disabilities.
Physicians attempt to inform parents of the facts of their baby’s condition and to present whatever relevant medical options are available; yet parents’ beliefs or biases may permit a broader or narrower range of options than are considered "standard medical judgment". The child’s parents may opt to proceed with aggressive care, citing a belief that human life is sacred. Or, where a baby’s medical condition requires no neonatal ICU but a fairly routine surgical procedure, his parents may choose to allow him to die. In both situations, physicians play the role not only of medical technologists, but also of ethicists.
Then there are the decisions made regarding the fate of handicapped babies before they are born. Genetic screening techniques, such as Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) or Chorion Villus sampling (CVS) are used to detect congenital defects pre-natally. Therefore, some obstetricians practice defensive medicine, advising patients about the availability of tests and abortion should a defect be found. That makes it difficult for a pro-life doctor to suggest having the tests, knowing he cannot recommend abortion. In a study of women’s attitudes regarding aborting "defective" pre-born children, only 71 out of 300 said they would not abort a child even if there were conclusive evidence that it would be handicapped.
Here is where the problem is. Our society has come to the belief that the quality of the human race can be improved by controlling human procreation and by excluding those who do not meet certain criteria. This philosophy was adopted by Nazi doctors and has even been practiced in Romania. To exclude babies that do not fit a particular design is no different than Hitler’s exterminative medicine practice against the Jews and other "undesirables".
Infanticide is made to look humane. Many in the medical field are willing to let babies die if they are uncertain about their future. Many would say the baby does not know what is going on and does not know the burden he brings upon a family. Such thinking holds very little respect for human life.
This side of eternity we do not know why God allows severely handicapped babies to be born; who will never live a normal life, but it is still wrong to kill what God allowed. We should never forget that because of the sin of the human race, we live in a society that is marred by that sin. This is not saying that it is the direct sin of the parents that causes these situations but the penalty of sin on the entire human race. God told Adam and Eve that if they sinned they would die. That dying process affects every human being at some stage of life, some even before birth.
A survey of pediatricians in Massachusetts revealed that 54 percent do not recommend surgery for infants. Sixty-six percent would not recommend surgery for infants born with spina bifida. One survey of Bay Area pediatricians found that 22 percent would recommend non-treatment for infants with Down’s syndrome, but no other complications and 50 percent would recommend non-treatment in cases where other complications were present. Only 1 percent of pediatricians and 3 percent of surgeons indicated that they could not accept a non-treatment decision in those situations.
Some would go a step further if the law would allow it. They would do something to end the baby’s life. Raymond Duff states, "Once a decision for non-treatment has been made, the means taken do not really matter. Euthanasia, either passive or active, can be a safe and human choice in dealing with selective tragedies". It basically comes down to this, once death has been chosen for an infant, the means of death is irrelevant. We are speaking of physician-administered death. Michael Tooley, professor of philosophy at the University of Western Australia, argues that in order to have a right to something, we must be capable of desiring that thing. He contends that the defective newborn does not have a right to life because he is incapable of wanting that.
Part of the trouble with this logic is that it affects any other handicapped individuals, particularly those with mental disabilities. This philosophy would even affect the elderly who become no longer able to take care of themselves. The sad thing is that many disabled people exhibit a greater desire to live than some who are considered physically healthy.
Infanticide is a denial of personhood. It is a matter of the weak destroyed by the powerful. The medical profession takes on the role of executioner. It is hard for a family to make these decisions when they are unprepared for the emotions and the blur of activity that characterize the neonatal intensive care unit, not to mention the bombardment of medical terminology and intensity of the therapies under consideration. Since most parents have no experience with the complexities of neonatal care, it is relatively easy for a physician to guide them to the decisions he deems best, rather than allowing them to decide for themselves after hearing the full range of options. It would be wise for parents to find out what their doctor’s position is toward sanctity of human life before they get into these decisions. In fact, it would be wise to know if a doctor is pro-life before you chose one.
Some neonatal units operate under a standard some call the "wait until near certainty" approach. This assumes that every member is viable and should receive treatment until it is certain that he will die. When that point is reached, parents may opt for non-treatment or the termination of treatment. Most believers would agree with this position.
It comes down to a debate between two concepts: 1. Are we willing to accept the babies God gives to us? and/or, 2. Should all babies be allowed to live? The moral integrity of the medical community should be such that we can trust them not to kill when unable to heal. Very often the thinking of a believer will be different from the unsaved world.
WHAT IS GOD’S VIEW OF LIFE
Exodus 21:22-24 - If someone caused a woman to miscarry, whether it was accidental or intentional, the law demanded a penalty. God, in the Law, demonstrated a high regard for the life of an unborn baby. It seems to indicate that if this was intentional, he might have to give his life in return.
Isaiah 49:1,5; 44:24 - Isaiah made it plain that from the womb he was called. Prenatal life is precious to God.
Jeremiah 1:5 - Before Jeremiah was completely formed in the womb he was ordained by God.
Psalm 139:13-16 – The Psalmist made it plain that he was covered by God in the womb. God knew his substance before he was ever born.
Exodus 23:7 – The Law says that the "innocent are not to be slain".
Luke 1:15,41 – John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.
Our conclusion must be that God is the Creator of life from the moment of conception and therefore, man has no right to destroy that life, even if it seems imperfect. Infanticide is killing what God has created.
I want to conclude with this true story. On May
30, 2006, my wife and I were watching It’s a Miracle on
Independent Television. The story centered on a lady expecting a
baby girl. Before the baby was due the mother went into extreme pain
with labor contractions. The grandmother of the baby rushed her
daughter to the hospital. Upon arrival there was no heartbeat of the
baby. The staff immediately induced labor and in a few minutes the
baby girl was born. The staff worked for 65 minutes trying to revive
the baby and finally gave up. The grandmother was allowed to hold
the baby and finally the mother held the baby to say a final
goodbye. Suddenly the baby began to move. Immediately the staff
moved her into the ICU. The heartbeat grew stronger and stronger.
Each day the doctor would say, "Now you must understand that she
will never do…(this or that)." The very next day the baby would do
what the doctor said she would never do. The doctor said she will
never respond, she will never feel, she will never eat, she will be
blind, she will never walk and she will have severe brain damage. At
the showing that we were watching I believe the girl was around five
or six years old. She was very healthy and very bright. Those who
believe in the practice of infanticide would never have allowed this
baby to live. The point is, man cannot always determine if all these
possible disabilities will be true, so there can be no infanticide
but every baby should be treated with hope.