Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The alleviation of pain and disease is the task of the medical profession but obviously there is much that still has to be accomplished. This is especially true, writes a medical school professor, with genetic diseases; the pain of parents of children suffering genetic defects would be hard to imagine.

He mentions a woman who came to his office  for a prenatal exam because her second child was born with an immune-deficiency disease. The child spent half of the first four years of life in a hospital, with  pneumonia, diarrhea, meningitis, and liver problems, finally dying at the age of four. The results of the exam were the same as they were for the second child. Seeing the woman leave the office, the doctor was sick at heart and knew that little could be done to help the woman medically. In these cases, most  mothers opt for abortion.

The mother, devastated by the thought that she was responsible for the child's birth defects, carried a great deal of guilt. The financial burdens on the family are also enormous.

In Korea, abortion is allowed, which of course is contrary to Catholic teaching; only in cases that threaten the life of the mother is the indirect death of the fetus allowed. Efforts are continually made to understand all that is involved in these cases of genetic abnormalities. The doctor mentions that in the past what would have been a death from natural causes, ruling out abortion right from the start, recent medical advances prolonging the life of the defective fetus, paradoxically, have brought more problems for the family.

Legalizing abortion in Korea has not lessened the difficulty for Catholics in making the right decision when told that a child has been born with birth defects. The doctor confesses that although he knows the sacredness of life and the right to life of these fetuses, he finds it difficult to dissuade the parent from having an abortion.

He concludes his article by urging the Church not only to speak against abortion but to find ways of supporting families who make a decision to have the child.

These cases certainly try the hearts of all those involved. The easiest way out of the difficulty is to have the abortion, avoiding the pain, expense and stress of raising a severely handicapped child. Refusing to take the easy way out, because of faith and respect for the sacredness of life, calls for the heart of a martyr. Our belief that something good will come from the sacrifice may ultimately reveal to us dimensions of life not ordinarily perceived.  

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