“We have to think about resources and you know he will never be able to contribute to society.” This was the response from the doctor when Mary Kellet asked him why she was given false information about her two-day-old son Peter. The false information was that there were no survivors over two weeks old with his condition, trisomy 18. Mary and her husband were advised to stop all treatment, wrap Peter in a blanket, and let him die. Tragically, many, many infants who die in pediatric hospitals do so after life support is withdrawn.
Pressure to have genetic testing and amniocentesis during pregnancy can be intense, even though there are risks of bleeding, infection and/or miscarriage. Abortion is seen by many as the solution for a child who may not be healthy. Many parents don’t know they have the option of continuing their pregnancy because they are not given that choice. There is a false sense of compassion that leads people to think abortion is the answer. The truth is, considering the advances in treatment and care now available, the future has never looked brighter for people with disabilities.
Imposed death by withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment or abortion would undoubtedly not be what the child would choose. Life itself is precious and every person has something good to contribute. Only when we embrace every human being with respect will we see the influence, promise, and potential they have. Until then, denying life to children who are disabled or seriously ill is not only their great loss, it is the world’s great loss.
Peter Kellett was always a great joy and gift to his family. In 2011, at six and a half years old, he went home to heaven. He died under suspicious circumstances while in the hospital following successful surgery to remove his appendix. An independent autopsy found that he bled to death.
Peter inspired the founding of Prenatal Partners for Life (PPFL), a worldwide nonprofit support group for families experiencing an adverse prenatal diagnosis, both before and after their children are born. Families in 47 countries have been helped by PPFL. Peter’s mother Mary, the group’s director, notes, “In the hundreds of families PPFL has supported, I have never heard a mother say she has had too much time with her child.”