Baby Jane Doe

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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Baby Jane Doe: What Should Have Been Done and Why In 1983 an intense controversy arose over an infant known to the public as Baby Jane Doe. She was born with multiple birth defects including spina bifida (a broken and protruding spine), hydrocephaly (excess fluid on the brain), and microcephaly (an abnormally small head, suggesting that part of the brain was missing). (Rachels, 5) Surgery was needed in order for her to survive, but doctors disagreed over whether it should be performed. Dr. George Newman, a pediatric neurologist, held that surgery would be pointless because even with it, Baby Jane Doe could never have a meaningful life, and would die at the latest in her twenties after a life filled with pain and suffering, not even having the mental capacity to recognize her parents. Dr. Arjen Keuskamp, another pediatric neurologist, did not think the outcome was hopeless and advised immediate surgery.

Given the circumstances what should have been done? On one side of the debate there is the idea of the sanctity of human life, that "every life is precious" and should be kept alive if at all possible at any cost. On the other side, the more liberal and pragmatic viewpoint holds that you should not keep someone alive when all you are really doing is prolonging an already agonizing existence ultimately resulting in death. Who can take the responsibility for this dilemma? When faced with such a difficult decision the parents are the only ones who are truly capable in deciding what is right for their child.

I agree with the parent's choice to not have the surgery performed. Faced with the prospect of a child who could possibly



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