April 29, 2020

Mother Shares Story of Arguing with Doctors Who Wanted to Let Her Son with Down Syndrome Die

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In an article she wrote for The Mighty, a mother named Jackie Tang told the story of how doctors repeatedly tried to convince her to abort her son or allow him to die by ending his treatment for his medical issues after his birth.

Tang had recently separated from her husband before learning she was pregnant. Doctors diagnosed her child with a heart defect, blockage in his bowels, fluid in the lungs, and a high chance of Down syndrome. They repeatedly pressured her to take tests that would confirm the Down syndrome diagnosis, but she refused.

"I was advised to get an amniocentesis test done before it was “too late” to terminate. I knew that the test would be invasive and risky, so I told the doctors that I was satisfied to work with the assumption that my baby did have Down syndrome. I told them that termination was out of the question."

As the diagnoses piled up, she was given a choice:

"I was told my baby was dying and would not survive to term. I was given three options: to let him die in the womb and deliver him stillborn, to have him delivered immediately with no likelihood of survival, or to prolong the pregnancy as much as possible by presenting at the hospital three times a week (from memory) for a few hours each visit, for steroid injections and monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. I chose the third option."

Tang writes that her son, Noah, was born at 34 weeks gestation and required resuscitation. He underwent many medical procedures at the beginning of his life to treat numerous medical difficulties. His mother writes that doctors pulled her aside on multiple occasions even after his birth asking her to stop providing him medical care so they could let him die.

"[A doctor Tang refers to as 'doctor 2'] said she wanted to check in because most NICU parents start to question the wisdom of continuing treatment when they’re at the 6-8 week mark, and they start to feel that they need to get their life back on track. She wanted to give me the option to withhold treatment and let him die. I said that wasn’t me, and I didn’t care about the screaming, I wanted them to throw the book at Noah when it came to saving his life."

Noah is now 5 years old and has completely overcome many of his medical problems, but his mother says that he still faces discrimination.

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