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02/02/2007

Buttons, mine, predictable pushing of

Facts:

  • At the beginning of January, Canada's first sextuplets were born at 25 weeks' gestation, weighing about 800 grams each.  As predicted, their parents, Jehovah's Witnesses, declined blood transfusions for the babies in accordance with their faith, which prohibits the consumption, storage, and transfusion of blood.
  • Many premature infants, especially micropreemies, require transfusions to combat anemia, which can be life-threatening.
  • Two of the sextuplets have died.
  • The provincial government seized three of the four remaining babies to allow them to be given transfusions over the continuing objections of the parents.  The babies were returned to their parents' custody afterward, although the seizure order allows the province to intercede again if further transfusions are warranted.

The cause of death for the two babies has not been released.  When there are so many potential hazards for babies born so early, there is no reason to conclude that they died expressly because transfusions were declined.  It is, however, known that anemia can exacerbate cardiac, breathing, and feeding problems and slow a baby's growth, all matters of grave concern for micropreemies.

Normally when high-order multiples are born to religious families, it's reported that the couple underwent infertility treatment but, when faced with the option of selective reduction, declined because giving and taking life is the exclusive province of God.  Those statements drive me quite predictably up a fucking tree: If you were sticking strictly to God's will, you wouldn't have five babies.

But despite how much that inconsistency makes me itch — almost as if these families didn't even care what I think! — the babies are born, four and five and six at a time.  They generally come early and sick, and they need a great deal of care.  Every possible step is taken to assure their survival.  And thanks to the hard work of their medical teams, most of the babies do just fine.

Contrast with these sextuplets.  This case hits me hard.

Now, it hasn't been confirmed that this couple sought fertility treatment, but given the odds of a natural sextuplet conception, it is the most likely scenario.  Given that, I am finding this almost impossible to fathom.  How can you want children badly enough to resort to medical intervention, and then refuse those children a treatment that could mean the difference between life and death?

This pushes my every button.  It's incomprehensible to me.  I don't understand it.  I don't have to; I know matters of faith seldom have much to do with reason.  But neither did my feelings when Charlie was born: I'd have sold my soul to the devil himself to help my baby live.

I know I'm not owed an explanation.  It wouldn't make me any less heartsick, even if I got one.  Anyway, I don't have the power beyond my own personal sphere to do what I think is right.  In this case, that's between God, the parents, and — fortunately, in my opinion, for the surviving babies — the government of British Columbia.

SPECIAL BONUS BUTTON-PUSHING, INCLUDING SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Everything about this story is really, really wrong, from the police ignoring the woman's pleas for help, to the woman's wrongful death suit against the Kansas City police department, to the grotesquely misleading lede.  (Don't click the link unless you want your own buttons, whatever they may be, to be pushed like a goddamn Speak 'n' Spell.)

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