A Portland area couple was recently awarded nearly $3 million because their daughter was born with Down syndrome. Around 13 weeks into her pregnancy the mother had gone into a clinic and received the chorionic villus sampling or CVS. The results showed that the child had a normal chromosomal profile. When the child was born it was then discovered that she did in fact have the chromosomal abnormality referred to as Down syndrome. Statistically the test has a 97.7% accuracy rate.
The couple sued the clinic claiming that had the test been accurate and they knew that their child was Down syndrome they would have aborted her and thus never gone through the ordeal of raising a special needs child.
The child is now 4 years old. The parents say that they love her. They simply want the clinic to pay for their error. If you’re interested in the specifics of the testing and trial you can read the story at the Oregonian.
The whole case is a reflection of our times and the questions that modern medical science is presenting to society. Upon what basis will we make such life and death decisions?
The term “wrongful birth”, like other current euphemisms in the news such as “after-birth abortion” and “selective reduction”, sends a chilling message that many of us can be misled by the changing of language.
Those of us who are guided by the Bible through the questions and values posed by contemporary culture have to see this crafting of words for what it is. Most of our society would not tolerate the murder of babies but would give little attention to someone preventing a “wrongful birth”.
Yes, I’m aware that scientifically a sperm and egg unite and from that conception a developmental process is launched until there is a birth. Increasing numbers in our society are having to reject the notions about life beginning at some point of viability or at birth because science has convincingly demonstrated that life begins at conception.
But theologically the Bible contends that life begins in the heart of God which precedes the uniting of sperm and egg. In the story of God’s call to Jeremiah to be a prophet, God informed Jeremiah,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
The implication of this verse is clear. God conceives our lives and has determined the value of our lives and has plans for our lives before our parents even come into the picture.
Was there a wrongful birth of this little girl 4 years ago? No. Were it known that she would be born with Down syndrome should there have been a selective reduction? God forbid. Within minutes of her birth when her condition was discovered should there have been an after-birth abortion? Are we insane?
Changing the language does not change the fact that we are “playing God” when we make decisions for death instead of life.