Meet Ariel and Deborah Levy of Portland. They have three children. Two of whom are sons:
The Levys said their sons are healthy, strong and bright. The oldest is a competitive chess player and has placed in the 99th percentile on standardized tests.
Alas, their daughter–despite all the prenatal tests and ultrasounds–has Down Syndrome. The parents claim they would have aborted their now four year-old girl, Kalanit, had they known of her disability, a tidbit gleaned from the British press rather than the American. They sued the medical center where tests had been performed, and the jury awarded them the money.
I’m struck by many aspects of this story, most of all that a British tabloid is more truthful that the American press which obfuscates the reality of this horror, all the while emphasizing how much they love her:
Experts say so few parents choose to file wrongful birth suits because it forces them to take an awkward position: They must be willing to say on the record that they would have aborted the pregnancy, and that they feel a burden — albeit financial — of raising the child.
The Levys’ attorney, David K. Miller, said his clients deeply love their daughter but worried about being portrayed as heartless. Miller said they sued because they worried about providing all that their daughter would need over her lifetime. Experts testified that she will continue to need speech and physical therapy and face a concerning list of possible medical problems over her lifetime. Professionals have told the Levys that she will likely never be able to live independently, or earn a living.
Anyone who goes on record as saying they would have aborted her child after four years of raising her–not a “pregnancy”–does not love her.
How incredibly sad for any kid, disabled or not.
The defense argued that Kalanit’s form of Down Syndrome–mosaicism–was the reason the tests came back incorrectly. Mosaicism accounts for a very small percentage of Down Syndrome, and it means that not all cells have the extra copy of a gene, i.e. a percentage of cells do. As a result, kids with mosaicism tend to not have as many health problems and also generally have a higher IQ. Given that, I’m awed and a little angered by the “expert testimony” the Levys paid for who argued Kalanit would never be able to live independently or of the medical problems she would face.
But the jurors didn’t care.
Deborah Levy, who had held her emotions in check throughout the trial, began to cry as Judge Karin Immergut read the verdict. The couple nodded and mouthed “thank you” as jurors filed out of the courtroom. A few nodded back, smiled or reached out a hand toward the Levys. One juror visibly held back tears. Another wished them peace.
Peace, indeed. Peace to explain to your daughter–who will understand–why you chose to publicly disown her life which you don’t feel is worth living.
UPDATE: I had forgotten about this story from last September:
The jury awarded the parents $4.5 million to help “buy prostheses, wheelchairs and other medical services experts say he will need to live any semblance of a normal life” because their son was born sans arms and with only one leg.
At least Bryan Santa has a life, no?
What torment for a child at the age of three to know that mommy and daddy would have chosen to abort him because his life was too hard for them to bear.
Pray for this kid. Not because he has no arms and one leg. Pray for him because he knows he’s not wanted. And instead of teaching their child to focus on what he does have–a life, for the love of God!–they only look at his shortcomings.
I remember watching a documentary as a teenager about the thalidomide babies. Many were bitter. Some were ugly bitter, so twisted with hate because they were different, likely because the parents resented the intrusion from normalcy. But one–I still remember how his zest for life overcame everything, largely, I think, because he came from a big family where he was one of many. He played the drums with his feet. He painted. He could play frisbee. He had a wife–all limbs intact–and children. He was a happy man.
Bryan Santana, be that man. That’s my prayer for you. You have a heart and you have a mind. No one can take that away, not even your parents.
UPDATE: From the comments, Sherry imparts this:
The world says love equals never having to sacrifice or suffer at all. And people want to believe it.
How true. It reminds me of Joe Klein’s thanks to Santorum for forcing uncomfortable thoughts regarding our society’s position on disability and parenting.