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keobooks's avatar

What would you do if you had a baby born without a brain?

Asked by keobooks (14276points) June 18th, 2014

There is a condition called anecephaly in which a baby is born with only a brain stem and maybe some malformed brain tissue. Most babies with this condition are stillborn and the few that live are only alive for minutes or hours.

But with modern medicine, some of these babies are living up to three years. The babies are deaf and most likely blind. They can breathe, blink and sometimes eat without assistance. Some of these parents are insisting that their babies can learn to smile and recognize their parents. I watched videos of these babies and I think the smiles were just reflexes.

Here is a blog of baby Vitoria where the baby lived up to 2½ and was well documented, videotaped and loved. Here is a news article of baby Nickolas who lived until shortly after his third birthday.

Just to note: Some parents donate their baby’s organs even when they are still alive. Usually, the organs are in healthy condition and there is a shortage of organs available. These parents reason that even though the baby can blink and move around that the child is clinically brain dead and there is nothing but reflexes happening.

Also, this can be detected very early in pregnancy with ultrasound and is a common reason for mid and late term abortions.

The question is, would you go through with the pregnancy? Would you make efforts to keep the baby alive if you did? Could you love a baby with no brain?

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36 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

If I knew before birth, I would want to abort. If I knew upon birth, I would donate what ever organs could be harvested.

No life support, no artificial feeding.

Seek's avatar

I would abort.

Love has nothing to do with it. Of course you love your offspring. But torturing yourself for 2+ years to keep a kid alive that has literally no hope at a life is obscene.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I would abort, without hesitation.

janbb's avatar

I would definitely have an abortion.

When I interviewed pediatricians before my first son’s birth, I talked with them about what my wishes would be should a severely compromised baby be born.

keobooks's avatar

It’s probably a “no brainer” to abort or donate organs. These parents who kept these babies going for years fascinated me, though. Especially the Vitoria blog. They would post about how she liked to play games and tried to crawl and smile and she even made a few posts about how smart the baby seemed!

She took the baby to all sorts of therapists—even speech therapy. She had to look really hard to find therapists willing to work with her. Most said that the therapy would do no good at all because the child was going to be completely unresponsive to it.

They had several videos showing their baby playing and were thrilled that she could grab and hold onto a toy. They “taught” her to crawl by attaching her to a skateboard and pinching her toes, which would make her twitch her foot and propel herself forward.

It just amazes me that people could anthropomorphize a completely unresponsive baby. I think it’s totally crazy, but maybe if I were desperate to have a baby, I would do the same thing.

I hope not. I just don’t think I could love a baby like that. I’d want to abort as soon as I found out, but my husband would be against it. He thinks even a baby with no chance at life should get its brief chance to be born and loved. I think that a baby like that is dead in the womb and only having reflexes to give the illusion of living.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I looked at some of the videos. Amazing parents.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

We would be off to see the wizard where I would outfit him with a new brain and a certificate for meritorious service (couldn’t hurt).

keobooks's avatar

What amazes me most about the videos is Vitoria. After having a baby myself, I find it unreal that most likely until she was a month or two old, my own child was acting almost entirely on brain stem twitches. Except when newborns track objects with their eyes and process hearing, they are likely going entirely by instinct and reflex. It was striking to see a large 2 year old behaving exactly like a 6 week old baby.

I think the parents religion played a big part of how they viewed their baby. It was something—seeing so much love and they didn’t care that she was going to be a newborn baby forever.

Some of the videos were very touching—but part of that I think is that we instinctively respond to the motions of newborns. Its hard for me to say she’s not really living, but I still think that the child, no matter how sweet, was just a bundle of reflexes that made a very tender loving illusion. I fear I’d fall for it myself.

LornaLove's avatar

At times like this it does make one question a lot of things about life. Why we are here, ugh! Horrible. I mean some people might believe this child was born to teach them life lessons. I don’t know. If the child has no brain, it’s not even human. I’d abort.

The really hard question is what if you didn’t know and it had no brain when born.

gondwanalon's avatar

The baby born without a brain is already dead.

zenvelo's avatar

@gondwanalon The baby born without a brain is not ever alive.

keobooks's avatar

Here is an interesting article about medical futility. Baby K was born with anencephaly and her mother demanded drastic medical intervention to keep her alive. The doctors wanted to refuse treatment, but a court ruled that the doctors had to do whatever the parents requested to keep her alive. The parents’ insurance paid out 1100 a day to keep the baby alive on a ventilator in a nursing home for 2½ years.

Also mentioned in the article was baby Theresa, whose parents tried to get their daughters organs harvested while she was still breathing. The courts declared that the baby was still alive and could not be harvested. That’s interesting because people in comas who are only living because they have a brain stem are harvestable.

filmfann's avatar

I would encourage an abortion before birth, and organ transplants after. This country really doesn’t need another Republican.

Seek's avatar

^ Oh snap!

Dutchess_III's avatar

@filmfann You made me spit burrito all over my keyboard!!

dappled_leaves's avatar

@keobooks Wow, those are disturbing stories. I am surprised at both rulings.

talljasperman's avatar

@filmfann I was thinking the same one-liner.

CWMcCall's avatar

I would love it till the minute God took the baby from my arms and whisper to it to ignore the ignorant’s that choose to make light of my babie’s blessing.

anniereborn's avatar

I watched some of the videos. That is so so so SAD. Yes, it’s sad about the baby. But, what is more sad to me is the parents holding on to it like that. Trying to “make it into” the baby they wish it could be.
I would def abort if I knew beforehand.

keobooks's avatar

@CWMcCall am not at all a person who believes that any child with a defect should be aborted. I think this specific birth defect is different. There is no brain—just a brain stem. All of their movements are automatic reflexes that give the illusion of life. People in PVS (persistent vegetative state) do the same thing and are considered brain dead by doctors. Just because a body blinks and breathes doesn’t make it alive. People have been organ donors with this little brain function.

You can whisper whatever you want to the baby—they are deaf and blind so they won’t know. There are no feelings to hurt.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s very, very different.

CWMcCall's avatar

@keobooks My answer was directed to your headline question.
“What would you do if you had a baby born without a brain”

Since the baby was born it is too late to terminate the pregnancy so I would love the baby till God took it my arms. Your additional comments are cold and heartless and not worth any further comments from me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@CWMcCall You keep invoking God. Does that clash with the reality that to keep the baby alive you have to use artificial, man made means? If God had his way, he’d probably take the baby in a day. Aren’t people thwarting God’s will by keeping the baby alive?

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
CWMcCall's avatar

@Dutchess_III I will not discuss my God and his will with all things living. But I will say that my God gives me challenges he knows I am strong enough to endure and it would take more than having a child born without a brain to challenge my faith. God also gave man this brain so he could use it to better their lives and save lives with medicines, surgery and artificial means. People give thanks to their God by the thousands for life saving medical procedures and this same God I am sure is less than thrilled with people aborting fetuses.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But he’s OK with creating babies with no brains, and he’s OK with killing children by the hundreds in floods.

Besides. Abortion shouldn’t be any big deal. The baby is going straight to heaven, without having to deal with the hell being alive can bring.

Seek's avatar

Unless those fetuses are not Jewish. Read Psalms. Happy is he that dashes the infants’ heads against the stones, and all.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Or Jehova’s Witnesses.

Seek's avatar

Oh, Herpderp. That was at @CWMcCall, not you. As far as I can tell from reading the Bible, Biblegod is quite a fan of killin’ babies.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Herpderp? Herpderp? Did you just call me HERPDERP!! Thems fightin’ words!! Put ‘em up! What’s a herpderp?

No, I meant it’s not only the Jews who are the only ones going to heaven. The Jehova’s Witnesses are too. But they’re the only ones.

Seek's avatar

Herpderp was directed at myself.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are not going to heaven. Their version of Heaven is full. They’re fighting over who gets to stay on Earth after all the bad guys are shlepped off to Hell.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, that’s right. Heaven is full. LOL!!

CWMcCall's avatar

@all above. Anyone with a “real” brain will know the Bible is a pile of BS written by a bunch of oppressed Jews writing stories in hopes of a salvation of some sorts and rewritten to continue to strike fear in the hearts of the followers to keep them brainwashed and God fearing and hardly representative of what my God is all about.

Seek's avatar

And which pile of BS stories do you personally subscribe to? or do you claim personal revelation as your sole source of religious devotion?

keobooks's avatar

I don’t think religion is stupid and I’m depressed that this became a Christian Athiest battle.


@Seek.. the anacephalic babies are not in any pain as far as anyone can tell. Some doctors even believe that they are not capable of feeling any pain at all and that they could take surgery without anesthesia. I somewhat disagree with that because Vitoria obviously felt something when her parents pinched her toes.

@CWMcCall—Terry Schiavo was an illusion. She was clinically brain dead, yet she would blink and move around just like an anacephalic baby moves. I’m sorry if you think that’s cold, but it’s true sorry. You also never mention if you’d hook the baby up to ventilators or other drastic measures. If you would, why would that not be violating god’s will?

zenvelo's avatar

@CWMcCall Quoting you – God also gave man this brain so he could use it to better their lives and save lives with medicines, surgery and artificial means.

I agree with that, God has given us the intellect to use that brainless body to harvest the organs to save many lives.

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