Any parent's hardest choice

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The Independent Online
From Ms Rosamond Mahony

Sir: Regarding Claire Rayner's article today (Another View, 27 June) I too am sorry that the Lawsons are using their disappointment at the birth of a daughter with Down's syndrome as a stick to beat other, less fortunate parents with.

Ms Rayner is absolutely right when she says that the burden is enormous and many families are not as fortunate as the Lawsons have been in the Handicap Lottery. They have a child with Down's syndrome; some babies are diagnosed in utero as having dreadful abnormalities; and others face a life that is hardly a life at all, as did my own daughter. She was diagnosed as having a spina bifida and hydrocephalus so severe as to leave her paralysed and profoundly brain damaged. Had she survived birth she would have faced many tough and painful operations simply to allow her to exist.

My own anger at what the Lawsons are doing in their grief is immense. How can they be so unkind to other people facing the prospect of bringing up a profoundly handicapped child - and without many of the advantages the Lawsons have. The damage being done in the media regarding prenatal testing and termination is enormous.

Any parent faced with such news is devastated. Grasping the enormity of the situation can be hard, but every year brings advances in foetal testing, so that less invasive tests can be done at an earlier stage.

My own termination took place at 20 weeks. It was a very sad and unpleasant experience which I chose only in preference to what my daughter would have had to face had she survived.

Choosing for your own child to die is the hardest choice any parent ever has to face, and one which is taken out of love for the child.

May I wish the Lawsons well in the decision they have made and request that other parents should be given respect by the media and society in their decision to allow their babies to die. The parents of such children should not be made to feel that they have done something morally reprehensible.

Yours etc,

Rosamond Mahony



27 June