Saturday, April 1, 2017

Thinking Clearly Regarding Fetal Organ Donation and Human Value [Clinton Wilcox]

A while ago I came across this letter from a dad whose unborn daughter, Eva, had a debilitating disability and would die a few days after birth. Of course, it's a very difficult situation to go through. No parent ever wants to outlive their son or daughter. However, the circumstances regarding their decision to bring the child to full term, while it appears noble on the surface, actually doesn't respect the inherent dignity of their child.

Listen to what Eva's father says:
We made our choice to carry Eva to full term for a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost was to donate her organs...It was just a practical endgame that in our minds, before we came to the realization Eva is alive and our daughter deserves to meet her mama and daddy, gave us a purpose to continue on. Donating was on Keri's mind from darn near the second we found out and while the experience of holding and kissing our daughter will be something we cherish forever, the gift(s) she's got inside that little body of hers is what really matters. Keri saw that almost instantly...
The first and foremost reason to carry Eva to term is not because she's a valuable human being, or because she deserves to meet her mom and dad. It's simply for her organs. In fact, Keri, Eva's mom, asked if they would be able to donate the child's organs "if they carried her to term." In other words, if they don't abort her, could she donate the child's organs? This child is not seen as an intrinsically valuable human being -- this child is being kept alive, first and foremost, for her organs. They are not respecting Eva's inherent dignity as a valuable human being. What they see are her organs.

Additionally, the child's inherent dignity is not being respected because she obviously cannot consent to having her organs donated. If a woman died in a plane crash and gave no prior acknowledgement that she would have wanted her organs donated, then doctors would be ethically bound not to remove her organs, even if there were others who needed them. Now, in cases where the person didn't consent to donating organs before they died, the doctors can get consent from the family members if the family members believe that's what she would have wanted. But since Eva has not obtained the level of rational cognizance necessary to understand what organ donation is and properly consent to having it done, given all the information, there is no way to know that Eva would have wanted her organs donated after she died.

Treating a child as valuable mainly because of her organs is a clear case of violating a child's inherent human dignity. The ethical thing to do would be to allow the child to be born and die naturally. She has a right to meet her mom and dad, and she has a right to be born. She also has the right to have her dignity respected regarding the harvesting of her organs after birth.

We all want our lives to have meaning, and we want our children's lives to have meaning. The problem is that in a case like this, they are trying to give meaning to the child based on what she can do -- donate her organs -- and not recognizing that the child already has inherent dignity as a human being made in the image of God.

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