1. Parenting
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

Terri Mauro

Would Your Friend Say Your Child Is Better Off Dead?

By January 26, 2009

Follow me on:

If you had a choice, would you prefer that your child with special needs had never been born? How about if you asked a friend, somebody peering in on your family from the outside, noting the strain on your marriage and the harm to your career and the wrinkles on your face and the lack of a recognizably promising future? What would that well-meaning individual, your best interests firmly at heart, have to say?

One such friend has written an editorial in the Daily Mail opining that, from her observation of a family's struggle with a severely autistic child, everybody would be better off if a prenatal test for autism had been able to prevent the child's birth. Even the child would be better off, she writes, because he's obviously miserable.

Now, I'm immediately suspicious of a friend who would not be so impertinent as to ask a mother if she wishes she'd aborted her child, but would be so impertinent as to write about it in the newspaper. More than that, though, this sort of argument -- "an autistic child wrecks your life" -- assumes that every one of us has a single shiny path of rightful life experience, and nothing should be allowed to ding that. It's the side roads we wander that make life life, but they often look like dead ends to our friends.

If we're going to use that criteria, though -- "will not wreck your life" -- as a basis for birth, it's worth noting that people who believe themselves good judges of which humans have value and which do not have wrecked a great many more lives than any child with autism, any child at all. Can we have a prenatal test for that?

What's New: Special Needs News | Site of the Day | Definition: Cornelia de Lange Syndrome

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

January 27, 2009 at 11:58 am
(1) sylrayj says:

“will not wreck your life” is such a strange phrase. Every single parenting book I’ve read says that everything changes when one has a child, so I consider being willing to have a child means that one is giving consent to have their current life ‘wrecked’. Yes, for some people, there are a lot more joys, and for some there are a lot more wounds, and I can’t just blithely dismiss them. The fault, though, is more likely with that little village that’s supposed to be here to help out. More respite, more education and learning to be able to safely provide that relief, and more education to aid the kids will go a lot farther than ‘he shoulda been dead’.

January 27, 2009 at 9:18 pm
(2) Paul Kemp says:

As the parent of a high functioning autistic child, I can’t conceive of why I would want him to be any other way. Is he a challenge because of his obsessions and emotional immaturity? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t change him for the world. His inner world and imagination are so rich and vibrant that I could never consider robbing him of that just so he could be “normal”. Indeed, the one time he has allowed me into his world, I was astounded to the detail and wonder that he inhabits as a regular way of life. A burden to my life? In some ways, but it’s far outbalanced by the richness and uniqueness he has added to it!

January 30, 2009 at 8:42 pm
(3) cpmom says:

I’d have to say that this person doesn’t think much of her friendship. Instead of offering support in any form possible (conversation, groceries, coffee etc), she judges her friend’s life. I don’t have a child with autism but I do believe the article could be rewritten to any type of disability. These are the people that pull away after having a child with a disability…and if that is truely what they think or feel then ‘thank you for pulling away’. These are the people that want a perfect society…not practical and quite boring.

January 30, 2009 at 9:40 pm
(4) Cathy says:

That kind of thing just infuriates me!!! That they think they can decide who should be dead or alive is totally unhumane, so is abortion of any kind, the baby is a human being from the moment of conception until natural death!!!! It is God that makes those decisions not us as to whether someone should be dead or not.

February 1, 2009 at 7:34 pm
(5) Anna says:

It is people who haven’t been taken off their “shiny” path who even dare to judge those who have. Worse, people who have had relatively few challenges to their “shiny” paths actually adopt a frighteningly arrogant attitude which says, “It is the victims’ fault for their circumstances. Somehow, they brought this upon themselves.” The ONLY difference between that deluded person and people who end up with extra challenges is **pure circumstances.*** Ironically, it is quite often that the people who have not had to meet those extra challenges that end up the least humane, the least empathic, and the most small-minded and unjustifiably self-righteous. It is these challenges that hone our empathy, our call to advocacy, and lessen our impulse to judge. I’d much, much rather be viewing life from this side of the fence, if viewing from “their” side excludes compassion and humanity. I might even learn to have a little empathy for the least empathic of us!!

February 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm
(6) Rachel B says:

My parents-in-law thought they’d hit life’s jackpot when my sister-in-law was born – a much-longed-for daughter to complete the family. She was perfect, and therefore deserved to live, right? Well, she had Borderline Personality Disorder (not diagnosed until her late twenties) and suffered mightily most of her life from depression, anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, alcoholism, and loneliness. Her family suffered right along with her. She attempted suicide several times, and died by her own hand at the age of thirty.
I also have a friend whose “perfect” daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager. Her life since then has been a long parade of living nightmares and hospitalization, and she will probably never be able to live independently.
The fact of the matter is you never know what your child will bring to your life, good or bad. Having children is always a gamble. And it is one that, although I wouldn’t have chosen my son in advance, I am very glad I took – he lights up our lives every day and is worth every ounce of heartache we have endured.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.