Speaking up

Thanks to Jeffrey Acevedo of CNN for this story. I love the letter this mom wrote to the doctor who advised abortion when they found out her baby had Down syndrome. We’d like to think medical professionals are more enlightened nowdays, and many are, but there are those who still have the “burden to society” attitude about people with disabilities. “Naturally, you don’t want THIS baby.” Or they may just be in a hurry. Whatever the reason, it’s right to speak up.

Years ago, when Jim was 26, we visited the doctor and she wrote a referral to a specialist for a minor problem. This lovely person had been my husband’s family doctor for years and had looked after my stepchildren, including Jim, since they were little. She even delivered the youngest. She was now close to retirement. After leaving her office, I read the referral note and saw that she had written to the specialist: “A 26-year-old Downs…” and went on with her request. When I got home, I wrote her a note. I reminded her that Jim was not “a Downs” and that I was disappointed in her language. To top it off, Down syndrome didn’t have anything to do with why we needed the referral. She called me and apologized. She had been in a hurry and scribbled down what she thought the other doctor should know, but never intended to dehumanize Jim or describe him only in terms of his disability. And she thanked me for reminding her that language is powerful. Words can have important meanings that might not be what was intended.

Congratulations to Emersyn’s mom for reminding her medical professional that ‘perfect’ comes in many forms.

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