Annie died today. And it should never have been. A little girl, two years old–a precious, little heart of incalculable worth–was lost just a little while ago. And it should never have been.
Annie was born with Down Syndrome, and some would say with “special needs.” She was a bright and unique light in this world—an epiphany custom-made in Heaven itself—which imbued her with unique and exceptional abilities. Anyone with half a heart could see that.
In spite of all her brilliance, Annie had a extraordinary challenge: the need of a new heart. Hers was failing. A transplant would have saved her life. But a transplant would never come.
Annie died today, a result of being denied a new heart by her doctors due to her genetic diagnosis. The quality of her life was forecast—not by her parents, friends and loved ones, but by a medical litmus that deemed her spark to be inferior to that of people with typical genes. The hospital rejected her appeals for necessary treatment and on the basis of an abhorrent reality: that people born with a particular distinction may not, in fact, always be treated as whole people. And it’s an insidious bigotry that has been bubbling under the surface of our America’s libertarian façade since day one. It is a prejudice that demeans and whacks wonderful people down to a fraction of their whole.
Annie is not the first. America has treated human beings as three-fifths a person before. This time it’s not about skin color. This time a person has been discriminated against based on her genetic constitution. And this intolerance has been going on for years. There are many others besides Annie. Magazine articles and online videos abound, chronicling the systematic discrimination of people born with exceptional abilities. It is a problem that finds its roots in the “Final Solution.”
Men, women and children with Down Syndrome were among the first people exterminated in Hitler’s Nazi Holocaust–all in the name of “mercy.” Atrocities and abominations, carried out in the name of medical science, eviscerated an entire people with the steeliest resolve. “They’re not worth it,” the haters tirade. “They diminish us all!”
But in fact, who’s really the one in need of the heart transplant? Pervasive, long-antiquated prejudices are the knife-blade at the throat of America’s humanity.
Just look at Annie. You SHOULD be agog. You SHOULD be aghast. An exquisite, irreplaceable, extraordinary person just slipped from our grasp. And we are all diminished.
She died today, not because her heart failed, but because ours did. Our heart: chambers calcified with bigotry and hubris. Our heart: arteries clogged with a self-consumed penchant to play God. Don’t point at her little heart. The blame is squarely on ours.
She died today because in our minds she wasn’t “person” enough to deserve a new pump. She wasn’t whole enough to deserve a new heart—not a child enough to warrant a fighting chance.
There was more than one person who needed a heart transplant today. The lack in the one snuffed out the life of a toddling treasure. The lack in the other will surely choke the nation in time.
A precious little heart of incalculable worth was lost just a little while ago. It should never have been. And anyone with half a heart could see that.
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