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How Baby Doe Starved to Death

As recently as 1982, babies with Down syndrome were denied food and starved to death.

This fact is so cruel, so disgusting, that it’s almost unbelievable. Unfortunately history still remembers it as truth.

On April 9, 1982, in Indiana, a baby, known as “Baby Doe”, was born with an esophagus malformation, an issue that could have been solved by surgery. Because the baby also had Down syndrome, the parents were encouraged by their doctor to deny authorization to operate. The Supreme Court of Indiana ruled they had the right to starve the baby to death. Baby Doe died seven days later, before the U.S. Supreme Court could hear an appeal.

Many Americans fought for this practice of starvation and denial of lifesaving treatment to be stopped, and the “Baby Doe Amendment” was added to the Child Abuse Law, which was passed in 1984 in the United States. This law determined specific rules for treatment of the “seriously ill” or newborns with disabilities. This law ruled that states receiving federal funds for child abuse programs must develop procedures to report medical neglect, which the law defines as the withholding of treatment unless a baby is “irreversibly comatose” or the treatment is “virtually futile” in terms of the newborn’s survival.  Opinions about a child’s “quality of life” are not valid reasons under this law for withholding medical care.

Yes. This really happened. Until the public became aware that babies with Down syndrome were being starved to death, this was a common occurence. We have to spread facts like this, so this never happens again.

Lila was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect. Had she been born 30 years before, she might not be here today.

People with Down syndrome deserve the same “rights” as any other human being does. They are still fighting for their lives today. We have to continue to make the world a more accepting place for people who have Down syndrome.

Resource 1 - History / National Association for Down Syndrome

Resource 2 - Baby Doe Ruling

Resource 3 - Global Down Syndrome Foundation Civil Rights Timeline

Resource 4 - Time Magazine,9171,949828,00.html

Resource 5 - Washington Post


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