Birth Defects and Decisions about Life.
In 1982 an extremely sick baby was born in Bloomington, Indiana. The infant, who came to be known as "Baby Doe," suffered from Down's syndrome and had a surgically correctable abnormality of the throat and esophagus that prevented him from taking food or drink by mouth. It was not certain whether the child suffered the heart defect that occurs in 40 percent of babies with Down's syndrome. With the encouragement of their obstetrician, the parents refused the surgery. Baby Doe died six days later as legal appeals were being filed for treatment against the wishes of his parents. After his death, the government became officially involved in the controversy. When President Reagan learned about the death of the infant, he instructed the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to make certain that such a situation could never happen again. HHS passed regulations that were successively challenged in...
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