Wednesday, May 6, 2009

'Hand of Hope' Spinal Bifida Case - Eugenics, Ersatz Compassion, and Life

"Ten Years Later, Boy's 'Hand of Hope' Continues to Spark Debate"
FOXNews (May 6, 2009)

"Nearly 10 years after a stunning photograph of his tiny hand traveled the world, Samuel Armas has a firm grip on what "The Hand of Hope" means to him.

" 'When I see that picture, the first thing I think of is how special and lucky I am to have God use me that way,' Samuel told 'I feel very thankful that I was in that picture.'

"On Aug. 19, 1999, photographer Michael Clancy shot the 'Fetal Hand Grasp' — his picture of a 21-week-old fetus grasping a doctor's finger during innovative surgery to correct spina bifida. Nearly four months later, on Dec. 2, Samuel Armas was 'born famous.'

"The photo, which first appeared in USA Today on Sept. 7, 1999, quickly spread across the globe as proof of development in the womb and was later cited during congressional debates on the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which passed in 2000...."
The 'Hand of Hope' photo is, I think, one reason why we don't hear the 'formless lump of protoplasm' argument all that often now. Photos taken inside the womb and scanning technologies have made it blatantly obvious that 'formless lumps of protoplasm' are as human before birth as they are, decades later, when they're keeping seats warm in Congress.

(Michael Clancy, via FOXNews, used w/o permission)

Killing Defective Babies - Whether For the Race, or For Compassion: It's Wrong

Samuel Armas, now 9, was treated for spinal bifida. He's one of the lucky ones. Back then, it was in fashion to say that kids with spinal bifida were better off dead.

And then kill them.

It's true that spinal bifida is not something you'd want any member of your family to have. It's a major defect of the spine, is disabling, and quite painful.

Back before a German chancellor's efforts to purify Europe took some of the shine off eugenics, the argument would have been "kill the kid for the good of the race." That doesn't go over too well these days, so it's "kill the kid so he/she won't feel bad." Either way, the kid's dead: but the second option lets people congratulate themselves on how compassionate they are.
For Me, it's Personal
I'll admit to having a bias on this issue. I was defective at birth, wound up being part of a medical experiment (my parents were not pleased when they found out), and know from personal experience that being alive with a defective body can be satisfactory.

And certainly better than being dead.

(The Armas Family, via FOXNews, used w/o permission)

Samuel Armas seems to be doing okay. Thanks to that surgical procedure, he's not as obviously defective as he would have been: the boy's even won some awards for swimming.

Samuel's three-year-old brother, Zachary, has spinal bifida, too. From a eugenics point of view, the parents should have been sterilized. I'm rather glad they weren't - but as I said, I'm biased.

More-or-less related posts:


Brigid said...

I don't know if it was spinal bifida, but I knew a girl in school when I was a kid who "has a hole in her spine." She couldn't participate in gym class much and was very quite and withdrawn, so I didn't get to know her very well. But she seemed like a nice kid and I'm glad I got to know her in the very small way that I did.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


Sounds like something similar, at the least. And, although I'm biased, I think that 'defective' people can be quite okay.

Thanks for sharing, BTW.

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