Niketa's challenge is not about 'morality', but about 'dignity of life'

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Views and opinions in this article are completely based on analysis of existing laws and available sources. I would like to say that one person's ethics and values cannot be imposed on other person, unless it is acceptable by both. Niketa's case involves a vital question of life & personal liberty and hence one must respect whatever decision Niketa takes.
I have seen and read about many parents who have shown the rare courage in fighting to keep their children alive. They too were devastated and could not understand why they were being punished this way. They had no choice but to accept the inevitable reality and decide to give the best possible medical care. Niketa Mehta and her husband, Harsh Mehta, feel that they will be 'devastated' if their child is born with serious handicaps and "they wanted to abort the child since it would need a pace maker right from the time of birth and the quality of its life would be poor[...]". They have challenged the 37 year old 'law of the land' to avoid the birth of their child with a life-threatening congenital heart disease. Law says, a pregnancy can be terminated after 20 weeks only if there was a fatal risk to the mother and not the foetus.

"There are few facts which will help understand the predicament Niketa faces. The congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects. One in every 125 babies is affected by the same. Of approximately 40,000 babies born with it, 4000 die in the first year itself. 82% of babies diagnosed with congenital heart disease survive the first year of life. 78% of babies diagnosed with congenital heart disease will survive to adulthood. These facts clearly indicate that the chances of the baby’s survival are bleak.[source]".

Country remains divided over whether it would be right to terminate a foetus at this late stage of pregnancy. Here are different perspectives which may help you decide what is right (for you).
  1. "Once it is confirmed that an unborn baby is terminally sick and there is no medical report to confirm and substantiate the curable aspects of the sickness, then there is no use of fighting a moral battle to deliver a sick baby." The court says, “There is no medical evidence on record to say that he will be handicapped after birth. The petitioners have not made out that this lady's case is exceptional for us to use discretionary powers.”
  2. "There will be many sitting on the fence with lots of high moral advice", after all, it's Niketa and Harsh Mehta who is going to suffer the pain. They should be allowed to make their own decision. 
  3. Niketa says, "Nobody will come to see the day-to-day trauma of the baby and the mother. Even if the government will provide funds, it cannot help my child." NGOs say, "we can take care of the child", but Mehtas say, "How can we share our sadness with someone else? Even if they have the money to look after the baby, the child will always be compared with other normal children.
  4. The couple’s doctors say the child, if its born, will have to be fitted with a pacemaker and it will have to be replaced every four years. The couple says pacemakers are costly and it would be difficult for them to make replacements every five years. - A private medical aid company wrote to TOI expressing an interest in offering the baby a free pacemaker. A pro-life group in the city, not willing to be identified, said it was willing to confidentially find an alternate home for babies with congenital heart defects.
  5. "What is most peculiar is that the Mehta's have the resources to pay huge legal fees to their lawyer for appearing in the High Court - not a small amount by any standards, but cannot afford to bring up such a baby." - It's not a question of money they are spending in the legal system. They have taken a bold step to challenge the law of the land which of course affect many others. Their demand for change in the law has far reaching impact and may help others in future.
  6. "If science had not progressed as much as it has today, would the thought of aborting the child then enter their minds? ...why can't they use the advances in science to bear the child and try and give it a comfortable life?"
  7. "If they really wanted to abort their child, they would have done it by many means, whats the point in fighting against the law when they have no time?" - There are cases of violation of law (Example, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971). In spite of having stringent rules, people always find a way out for sex determination, termination of female foetus, etc. We must appreciate Mehtas rare courage to challenge the laws and provide positive impacts of this debate.
Life is the most precious gift of nature. Once we are here on this planet, we start defining what is good, what is bad and what is more comfortable to us. This definition is completely based on values, ethics and perceptions of contemporary society. Mehta couple think that their 'circle of comfort' will be adversely affected if the child is born with 'congenital heart disease'. If you think that their decision is against morality, then you cannot impose your morality on Niketa and Harsh Mehta. You cannot say that, "It cheapens our attitude to life as a whole." It's a question of life, family and personal liberty, and it has a far reaching impact on future generations.

My opinion in this case is equivocal. Time is the only answer.

Related Post:
Dr. Devi Shetty - The King of Hearts

Read More:
1. Media Reports: TOI, Rediff, CNN-IBN, Times Now.
2. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
3. "The Mehta's can take heart from these stories."
4. Readers comments: 1, 2, 3.
5. Watch video on CNN-IBN.
6. What is Congenital heart disease?


Anonymous said...

It is the parents responsibilty and wish to give their baby a good, healthy and happy life. I believe parents or would be parents are the best judge to decide the fate of their baby.The decision should be completely left to them. The court or the judge is not going to live with the baby day and night and see his/her plight so the court should leave this judgement with the parents of the baby.

Anonymous said...


Post a Comment


Creative Commons License
This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.