Thursday, February 01, 2007

Give me a break

Premier Gordon Campbell defended his government's seizure of three of the surviving sextuplets born last month in Vancouver, and said Thursday the B.C. government will continue to look out for their well-being.

For those who haven't been following it, the sextuplets were born to Jehovah's witnesses, who think that God has a problem with blood transfusions. It was these kids' bad luck to be born with such crazy parents. The fact that the parents allowed all six fetuses to come to term is bad enough. Any responsible parents would have had a selective reduction to ensure that their kids would not be virtually guaranteed to be born so early that they would face disabilities throughout their life. But religious belief is barrier to reasonableness in more ways than one here.

Having given birth to six dramatically premature babies, these parents now want to refuse them the medical care necessary to keep them alive. Any halfway reasonable person would see that it's the job of the government in these circumstances to intervene on behalf of the defenceless babies who are about to be sacrificed on the altar of their parents' crazy beliefs. Premier Campbell shouldn't have to defend the decision; it is so obviously the right one. In this case, the demands of religious superstition amount to nothing less than child abuse. Any parent who lets his or her child die because they think God objects to medical treatment should be charged with failing to provide the necessities of life. Adults can choose for themselves to end their lives for stupid reasons; children can't. I don't like that children can be indoctrinated with baseless beliefs that will lead them to self-destructive behaviour later in life, but there's no way around that. But a civilized society has to draw the line at actual harm. And it's a good thing we do.

Incidentally, I'm reminded of a story my girlfriend's mother told me. She's a speech pathologist, and was presented with an autistic child, about two years old. She and her colleagues told the mother that the child was autistic and would require therapy to ensure that he could develop communications skills. Instead, the woman, who was Hindu, took her child to India for a year to drink holy water. Didn't work. A year later, the child was so severely withdrawn that he would require years of much more intensive and expensive therapy to develop comparable communications skills. What a complete shame. What a complete disgrace.


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