The Special Olympics launched a campaign Tuesday to banish the word "retard." Evidently they want the phrase “mentally retarded” eliminated from state and federal laws that still use that terminology. I understand the rationale behind changing “retarded” to something a bit more benign sounding such as “developmentally challenged” but honestly, it becomes difficult to keep up. I find myself struggling to find the politically correct way to say what we used to just call “slow”.
I am a believer in equal rights for everyone. I remember reading a few years ago that babies with Down Syndrome were not eligible to be placed on the transplant list for a new heart. At first I thought that such blatant discrimination could not be happening. I did a little more research and confirmed that it is true and they are denied new hearts. Up to fifty percent of Down Syndrome babies are born with a congenital heart defect. Of the fifty percent, there will be some that simply will not survive without a new heart.
The thinking in the medical community is that someone with DS will have difficulty keeping up the strict medication regimen required for a transplant patient. The obvious problem with that logic is that we are discussing babies. No baby, regardless of IQ, is responsible for their own medication or changing their own diaper for that matter. It seems to come down to placing more value on the life of one over the other, contingent upon intellect.
Families with Down Syndrome children do not love their babies any less than any other family. How can this be acceptable? In light of this information, is it possible that the battle on terminology is the wrong one to fight?
When I was doing some reading on the subject, I came across this story. This baby, Laith, is not a DS baby but is in need of a transplant. If you believe that we don't have any problems with our health care system this will change your mind. The family's health insurance would not pay for a transplant. They were given the choice of coming up with 1.5 million up front or letting their baby die.