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1997: California doc. tries to starve former fetus to death

Aidan Peterson was born in 1997 in the civilized United States, in Modesto, CA, with a cleft palate. This wasn't long ago and far away. Some of you, dear readers, may have been born in the 1990's. And some of you probably live in California, maybe even in Modesto.

The doctor freaked out. I put it that way deliberately to emphasize the irrationality of the doctor's reaction to Aidan's existence. The doctor himself looked at the matter differently. According to him, it was Aidan's mother's feminine irrationality that made her resist the idea of murdering Aidan:

The day after he was born, Aidan was taken into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) because he was unable to breastfeed, and was becoming dehydrated and weak. The hospital did not have the type of bottles babies with a cleft use to feed. The hospital pediatrician called my husband into the nursery and advised us to sign Aidan over to the hospital. He told us that we were still young, we could still have other children, and that these kids (kids with cleft lip and palate) tend to have neurological problems, he would require many surgeries that could bankrupt us, and that if we were foolish enough to ignore medical advice and take our baby home he would end right back at the hospital as a “failure to thrive.”

The “treatment plan” the doctor told us was that they’d give our son pain medicine, and let him die (of starvation and dehydration). Jodi began to cry and refused, at which point the doctor turned to Quentin and said, “Get her out of here, she’s being irrational.” He thought he would have a better chance at convincing Quentin to leave the baby.

The poor doctor obviously didn't know how to use the Internet. (We had the Internet in 1997, right?) I can tell you now that if you Google "cleft palate" and "bottles" you get a lot of hits. That particular birth defect is common enough that it's already been well provided for, at least in first-world countries. But of course I'm being facetious. The doctor must have known that there are special bottles allowing babies with cleft palates to eat. He was just deliberately hiding that information from young and inexperienced parents, because in his eugenics-addled brain, Aidan was a drain on the resources of the human race and better off dead. The parents were simply an unfortunate obstacle to Aidan's death and had to be brought around, by deception by silence if necessary.

Aidan was saved both because his parents refused to sign him over to the murderous mercies of the hospital and because a nurse told the parents about the special bottles and got some for Aidan.

Now he's fifteen years old, homeschooled, a member of 4H, and loves to play paintball with his buddies.

This story has to be reported for many reasons. One is that I have no doubt that other parents who have babies with cleft palates are encountering this same shocking proposal elsewhere in the country, right now. Maybe they know about the special bottles; maybe they don't. You can't mentally prepare yourself for and research all the merely possible disabilities your child might have and all the possible lies-by-omission that murderous medics might tell you. So let's get the word out to try to save other children like Aidan.

Another reason is that we need to realize that there is something deeply wrong with the way that our doctors are being trained. Well might a normal American, hearing this story, ask like the bewildered King Lear, "What place is this?" and receive the same answer, "In your own kingdom, sir." If you thought you were living in a world in which all the doctors you encounter when in a crisis situation (such as a birth) are kindly caregivers who believe in the dignity and value of human life, wake up now. It's a terrible thing to have to walk into your most vulnerable situations in life braced to do battle for the lives of your loved ones, but I fear that's where we're at, and naivete is not going to stand us in good stead.

Yet another reason is this: No doubt there are clever young bioethicists (I say "young" for a reason, because the young may be slightly less consistent, and less callous, than the old) who would not agree with what this doctor suggested--deliberately starving a newborn child to death because he has a cleft palate--but who would go to great lengths to justify killing Aidan had the cleft palate been discovered, say, when Aidan was a mere fetus of 18 weeks' gestation and had his parents wanted him killed then.

No doubt, too, if one greeted that suggestion with horror and tried to argue against it, they would insist that it is "religious" to hold that Aidan was valuable when he was a fetus at 18 weeks, just as valuable as after he was born, and that killing him earlier was not better than killing him later. We would then hear a spiel on how "person" and "human" aren't the same thing, the implication being that Singerian personhood theory, or some close cousin thereof, springs forth full-formed from mere objective scientific fact.

I tell you earnestly, reader, that it is not so. In fact, the cognitive dissonance lies in the position of the clever bioethicist. Think of it: In one sense, Aidan at 18 weeks was Aidan, or else we could not even say that he had a cleft palate at that age. The very characteristic by which that fetus would have been picked out for slaughter makes this clear. Aidan at 18 weeks with his cleft palate was that human being with a cleft palate. Yet, in another sense, the clever bioethicist must say that Aidan at 18 weeks wasn't really Aidan, because he was not fully enough developed to have passed whatever milestone (usually some milestone having to do with neurological development or level of consciousness) the bioethicist wants to use to designate that elusive, charmed, and golden category known as "personhood" or "personal identity." Therefore, he wasn't a True Person then, so he wasn't Aidan himself. Aidan sort of arrived on the scene later. We're not precisely sure at what point. Some would say 24 weeks. (Peter Singer would say much later, and presumably would endorse the killing of Aidan post-birth. But we're imagining a bioethicist who resists that conclusion.)

I put it to you, reader, that the position that takes Aidan at 18 weeks to be sort of Aidan and sort of not Aidan is not a rational and scientific position. It does not represent the deliverance of Reason and Logic. It is merely a rationalization of the fact that the bioethicist and the community that has trained him have decided to value later brain development and therefore to regard 18-week Aidan as killable without compunction.

It is the pro-lifer who says, rather, that it is just as shocking to propose dismembering Aidan at 18 weeks' gestation as to propose starving him after birth. And both are equally unworthy of a civilized country.

Let us, then, work for the protection of Aidan and all other fetuses and former fetuses. And let us hope and work for the greater rationality of the people around us, that they might not be blinded by the Molochian religion of contemporary bioethical theory.

Comments (2)

Hard to believe that this happened in 1997 and the parents didn't sue the heck out of the hospital, report the doctor and take it to the media back then. Actually it seems extremely unbelievable that they wouldn't have done so. 1997 was not exactly the dark ages. This story does not have the ring of truth about it.

I do notice that I somehow seem to have missed putting the link into this post. Here it is:


There is a picture of the family. There's Aidan with his repaired cleft palate. The parents' names are Quentin and Jodi, and their last name is Peterson. Tell ya' what--you can write to the author, Kristi Burton Brown, and tell her she's been taken for a ride. Or better yet, do some research and find the family on the photo and tell 'em they're big fat liars.

Somehow, I don't think you're going to do that. As for why they didn't sue the hospital, y'never know. They might have been too busy taking care of their first baby who also had a cleft palate. That can keep you busy. Not everyone is litigious. The doctor also apparently spoke with sufficient (fake) authority that the young couple was scared out of their minds. They were no doubt exhausted and thrilled just to have the baby eating and out of the hospital that had wanted to kill him.

Babies have been starved in hospitals before. The doctors just try to get the parents' permission, and then nobody sues. In this case, they failed to get that permission. Google "Baby Doe case" and you might learn something. It was a national scandal. You may not like that view of medical care in the United States, but being in denial won't change the facts.

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