Karen also mentioned another couple with a child affected by Trisomy 18. They had been told after delivery that little could be done for their newborn, and the child was placed off to the side, until one of the parents noticed her struggling and sought assistance for her. Other parents spoke to Karen about the subtle but noticeable resistance among medical staff whenever they brought their child with Trisomy 18 to the hospital for medical attention. The Santorums had experienced similar challenges with caregivers and medical staff. They had to fight to get the prescription for oxygen, and basic medical supplies, that Bella needed after she left the hospital; in addition, a hospice physician prescribed what would have likely been, if administered, a lethal dose of morphine.
Discrimination against those with disabilities should never be allowed to gain a foothold in the medical profession, nor be allowed to guide public policy. The true measure of the greatness of a society will always be in terms of how it treats its weakest members, and the authenticity of our own love will be measured by our compassion and acceptance of the disabled and the powerless. God seems to send us children with disabilities to help us grow, to remind us that every soul is of greater importance than its frail body, and to teach us how man's highest calling is found in his God-like possibility of sharing unconditional love.
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org