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Why do some health care professionals seem to treat our children with Down syndrome with contempt?

by | Oct 21, 2015

By Leticia Velasquez

GirlwithpumpkinThis is why we began Down syndrome Awareness Month and why it matters.

When my now 13-year-old daughter Christina was in a New York hospital for double pneumonia at age 4, she was terrified and refused to take an oxygen mask. For four days, my husband and I had to hold a tube blowing oxygen to her mouth, day and night. Her low oxygen alarm went off constantly, but no nurse came into the room to check on her. They complained when, exhausted from constant care, I invited friends to spend the night at her bedside silently praying the Rosary, keeping me awake and Christina alive. They sent in the head nurse to evict my friends for being a disturbance. No one shared Christina’s bedroom. I begged to let them stay, fearful that if I fell asleep, my daughter would die.

Finally the pediatrician stood up for me asking “who would it harm if you let those people stay? I can see that they are supporting the mother.” The nurses expressed disgust at how moms of special needs children are so “demanding.” I could feel their resentment and at last I was relieved to bring my daughter home where there was no one opposing her care.

Why do some health care professionals seem to treat our children with Down syndrome with contempt or even resentment? Do they accept Richard Dawkins’ view that when a woman is pregnant with such a child, the thing to do is “Abort, then try again”?

Do they resent the fact that such children often have complex medical needs, requiring more resources than the average child? Do they find them repulsive because their faces and bodies are different than typical people?

Over the years reading what you find in the comment boxes following articles about Down syndrome, I have to say that all of these attitudes are not only present in the community, but often those who hold such abhorrent views defend them vigorously.

Sometimes those of us who advocate for our children with Down syndrome are drawn into these pointless discussions. We say how much our children contribute to the happiness of others, how independent they are, or (and this is a favorite of mine) they will never use the criminal justice system.

But we should never do this, act as if we need to justify our child’s existence. Our children have as much of a right to be here and to receive as high quality health care as anyone else.

End of discussion.

Editor’s note. Leticia Velasquez is Co-founder of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) author of “A Special Mother is Born”

Categories: Down Syndrome