Happy birthday, Baby Doe

Baby Doe gravestoneToday would have been Baby Doe’s 31st birthday. But, Baby Doe had Down syndrome and his doctor believed some individuals with Down syndrome were “mere blobs.” The doctor’s medical advice to Baby Doe’s parents was that they should let their child die from lack of care. I wrote about this in 2010. Re-reading the column, I was reminded of then-current examples of these views still being expressed and practiced. Lest we think this attitude towards withholding care to babies with Down syndrome is long past, just in 2012 academics argued in favor of  “after birth abortions,” citing the high termination rate for Down syndrome to justify their position. In 2014, Richard Dawkins, noted evolutionist advised that it would be immoral to give birth to a child with Down syndrome if the parents knew beforehand.

Lest we forget, let us remember today: Happy Birthday, Baby Doe.


  1. Lynn George says:

    It is ignorance and lack of understanding that make people believe that children with Downs Syndrome should be left. I was ignorant also before we had our granddaughter 4 years ago. She is bright, sometimes loving (like all children) and is just about to start main stream school. Thankfully she has had no health issues. Contrary to belief, not all children Downs have severe medical problems. First and foremost, they are children – who happen to have a condition called Downs Syndrome. How anyone could leave a child to die is beyond my comprehension. They have been conceived by 2 people, who once they have had the situation explained to them, and realise what these children and adults are capable of might then know what a gift they have been given. People with Downs can go on to live full lives, hold down jobs and become (in some cases, ballerinas and photographers to name but a few options). FEAR is the block to accepting your child that has been diagnosed as having Downs Syndrome. It is the FEAR that needs to be addressed.

  2. This is standard procedure.I don’t mean to exculpate Dr Owens. Dr Wiliam Mobley tells a story of a young girl of 12 with Down syndrome whom he diagnosed with acute appendicitis as a resident. Twelve hours later, he came back to the ER and she had nor received emergency surgery though his diagnosis was correct. “Why wasn’t an appendectomy done?” he asked, and was reminded, “she has Down syndrome.” He was stunned to learn that patients like this young lady were left to die in agony as standard medical practice. That is the moment when he took up Down syndrome research. To make sure this would not happen.

    • But it wasn’t standard procedure at that hospital. There were other doctors wanting to intervene to provide care, but Owens physically blocked them. Then, at the court hearing, other doctors were saying care should be provided, but Owens stayed steadfast in refusing treatment. So, it wasn’t even the area community level of care. Owens fought to let Baby Doe die.


  1. […] the testimony of BAIPA, there were the Baby Doe regulations. I wrote previously about the Baby Doe case: a child born with Down syndrome in the 1982 whose delivering doctor […]

  2. […] In the early 1980′s, Baby Doe, a baby boy born with Down syndrome, was being left to die in the corner of a hospital nursery ward. A similar national response of parents wanting to adopt him occurred once the story became national news. (To find out how the story ended, click here). […]

  3. […] than not the same level of medical care as any other person. The last point was in reference to the Baby Doe case, where a newborn with Down syndrome and a disconnected esophagus, was left to die in a […]

  4. […] covered in this post, Baby Doe was a child born in Bloomington, Indiana. He was born with a disconnected […]

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