An Ethical Dilemma

For those of you that have been following my blog, you’ll know my wife and I are adopting again from China.

This time we were selected a boy, which is what we asked for. Most of the children available in China are girls so getting a boy is a Big Thing.

However, we’ve received the translated medical report and quite frankly it makes some grim reading.

The boy was found outside a hospital at age 7 weeks, and was diagnosed with a) Anemia, b) Vitamin K1 deficiency (of which more later), c) Pneumonia, d) a broken collar bone and e), most worryingly, a frontal sinus based blood hemorrhage into the brain cavity.

Now obviously we’ve done our research on this, and found that a) Anemia is something to be expected in kids between 4-8 weeks, since their own blood generation system hasn’t kicked in properly yet – they are still subsisting on what was provided in the womb. So no worries there. The b)vitamin K1 deficiency is purely dietary, and completely fixable (although it has an implication). C) Pneumonia, well, you get it, you overcome it and that’s done with. No long term worries there. But d) the collar bone and e) the brain hemorrhage is a worrier.

The collar bone issue is less about it being fixed, since it will obviously heal, and more about what caused it. There are three possible options here – birth trauma, some intervening trauma (being dropped etc) or abuse – shaken baby syndrome. If it was birth trauma, then this _should_ have healed by now, and hasn’t, which indicates some other issue.
If it’s shaken baby or other trauma, well, that’s bad, but it’s a one hit thing and will never be repeated.

Now it’s likely that whatever caused the brain hemorrhage was the same as what caused the broken collar bone, which if it was birth trauma means there’s been bleeding for a while. And thats a big worry.

Now the K1 deficiency comes into play here, because K1 is a blood coagulant. Which means the brain hemorrhage is exacerbated by this condition (or potentially even caused by it). Either way it’s not good.

Now the rest of the report goes up to 9 months of the kid being in the orphanage. Although he’s 14 months now, we’ve only got details up to 9 months. However, the report states that he’s hitting all his developmental milestones either on target, or earlier. This basically means that in the scale of what a hemorrhage can do (ie one end is the brain equivalent of a nose bleed and the other being Death) he’s not at the end of sever problems. He’s obviously not severely retarded or anything like that.

But there’s the very definite possiblity of some learning or social disability that might not become apparent until the kid is older. However, we just can’t know. Without knowing the severity of the initial hemorrhage, and how long it was going on for, there is no way to know what damage has occurred. And I doubt even the hospital knows that, since the only real way to tell is an MRI or cutting someones head open, and I doubt (and hope) they did either.

So, we are placed in the position of having to make a decision on this child from incomplete data with a ton of Mights and Maybes and If’? and it’s tearing me apart.

On the one side I know that my family will NOT be served by having a special needs child in it. I know me, and I know that having a stupid kid would really test my patience. Luckily so far Mila has been outstanding, but I know I couldn’t hack a dumb kid. I know that’s my problem and not anyone else’s, but that’s the reality.

We have an example close to home of a socially maladjusted child and seeing what we see of that I honestly am not sure I could cope as a parent. Maybe I can, but maybe I can’t.

I know it’s a bit callous, but my wife and I have been through enough – not being able to have children naturally, plus waiting 2 frickin’ years for this adoption to come through, that the only upside was the ability to filter what child we asked for (i.e. a healthy infant), and even that has been taken away from us.

On the other hand, I know that if I said no to this kid, who needs a home, I would never be able to look myself in the mirror again. It’s not the kids fault he is in the position he is.

The thing is, there are so many dimensions to this – we are time pressured to make a decision because there are other couples traveling to china and they are waiting on us to accept our child so we can all make our traveling arrangements, which have to be made soon or we’ll run into the Chinese New Year in mid Feb, which is when China shuts down for three weeks. After that, traveling costs at least double (if not triple) because of the Olympics.

Then there’s the kid. This is possibly the biggest decision we are making on his behalf, a major life changing one, for everyone. Being glib about the decision is just Not On.

If we did adopt this kid, it has the added complication that if he has issues with almost anything developmentally, we’ll be looking at it from the filter of “Is this a result of the birth incident??” which isn’t fair either.

The Chinese authorities obviously consider this child healthy, or they wouldn’t have been made an adoption referral. If we turn the child down with out what they consider to be an adequate reason (although how anyone can consider a child that had a brain hemorrhage to be totally healthy is beyond me, but obviously they do) then we go to the back of the queue. Another 2 years. Maybe they will have considered themselves to have lost face and will find a new child instantly – but we won’t know their reaction till we’ve already turned the child down – no going back from that.

To be honest, we resent the Chinese for putting us in the position of having to make a decision of this magnitude with almost no information to actually guide us. The joy of this adoption – as it should be – is now totally gone, replaced by sleepless nights, yelling at each other over whats important or not, and stress the likes of which I haven’t had in years. It’s affecting my work and sleep patterns and I am Not Happy about it.

We have to make this decision together and that’s proving tough. Cathy, the wife , is able to emotionally distance herself (in a good way) that I am just not – I feel this decision to my core and I know that whatever decision I make, I will be looking back and second guessing myself constantly.

I know whats Right and I know Whats Correct, and in this case they aren’t the same.

Life can suck sometimes. I’ll let you know what decision we make. I think I know what I need to do…

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