Responding to the un-answerable comment

That look (Downs syndrome)

Image by Andreas-photography via Flickr

On Monday morning after Christmas, I found this comment, on an earlier blog post, from “Greg” in my email inbox (all mistakes his):

Will human stupidity know no bounds?
YOU chose to have a disabled baby.
YOU chose to not have an abortion
YOU decided to raise it.

Now you expect insurance to pay for your mistakes?

Why should everyone bbe burdened by your decision? If insurance pays for all the disabled child needs, then that means everyone else has to pay a higher insurance rate to offset the costs.

Would u be ok for an insurance company to pay for physical therapy on a guy who was constantly jumping and falling flat on his back even AFTER he was warned by doctors that it is very unhealhy?

Case closed


I’m having trouble imagining what kind of person could write this email. There seems to be a hostility beyond reason in his argument. Some among my friends, perhaps wiser than me, have suggested that the better course of action is to ignore it, as “Greg” is either desperate for any kind of attention or so closed-minded that persuasion is futile.

File:Polio physical therapy.jpgIndeed, I’ve found it harder to respond than I initially expected. All my power of reason is based on a certain set of ethical standards, which I thought were fairly universal, even if people apply them in different ways. For example, even those who think that it’s okay to terminate an “imperfect” pregnancy tend to be passionate about treating the disabled population with the respect and dignity due to all human beings. There is a commonality of values here, and my job is to illuminate the inconsistency in the way they apply it.

This comment shows no such commonality. How do I respond to someone who shows no sense of the innate dignity of the human person? Frankly, the warped perspective makes me suspect the whole thing is a prank.

Nonetheless, here’s an attempt at finding common ground with this commenter (which response will also be emailed to him following posting):

First: Despite the widespread use of prenatal screenings, not every child with Down’s (or any other condition) can be identified in utero. Even prenatal screenings aren’t foolproof. We did not know our daughter had Down’s until two hours after she was born. It wouldn’t have made any difference, anyway, but the fact is that your entire argument is based on a prenatal “choice” that many people don’t even have.

Second: by your logic, insurance shouldn’t be required to pay for any ongoing condition that could have been avoided–including many conditions and diseases that are not disability-related. Diabetes, even cancer–these things frequently have a genetic component (like Down’s), but they also tend to come on when people chronically mistreat their bodies (smoking, poor eating habits). Are you going to deny them coverage, too, because it’s “their own fault”?

But most importantly, you are proceeding from a set of faulty assumptions: first, that a person with a disability is an “it,” not a “he” or a “she;” and second, that “choosing” to raise the child, who is a visible sign of my husband’s and my love for each other, is a “mistake.” I have trouble imagining that anyone who has taken time to get to know a person with a disability could make this argument. Because once you open your mind and heart to an individual, you find that they are just that: an individual, unique and precious, with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s just as ludicrous to reduce a person to the sum of their devlopmental delays as it would be to reduce a contact lens wearer to the label “near-sighted.”

Human relationships are not measured by what you get out of them, but by what they inspire in you: the best or the worst of the human spirit. If you reserve your love only for those who are “perfect”, you condemn yourself to loneliness–because no one will ever meet that criteria. We all have warts. Big ones. Some of them are just more obvious than others. But the hidden warts, the ones no one knows about, can do more damage to others than an extra chromosome ever could.

Is this off the topic of insurance coverage? You bet. But how can we discuss what should or shouldn’t be covered before addressing the basic dignity of a human being? Without that, the debate is meaningless.

18 thoughts on “Responding to the un-answerable comment

  1. Note: I emailed the guy just now and it bounced. What does that tell you? :/ Perhaps it tells me that this comment was actually nothing more than spam–a loathsome, nasty spam.

    • It honestly doesn’t sound like it. Almost all e-mail spam is auto-generated, and this doesn’t quite sound like it was. I don’t why the e-mail bounced, however… Bad server?

      At any rate, that was a terrible thing for “Greg” to say. He’s truly a troll.

  2. I think your reply was graceful, and expresses so well the wisdom and experience you have grown into. Unfortunately, your assumption that your values are universally held is to generous. I find the opinions of Greg to be all to common. Thank you and your family for bringing such light and life into the world. Blessings.

  3. Heather L

    Great response. I hope your words will educate him and soften his heart. Unfortunately, many people like that are too far into their own disillusionment to learn and understand any perspective that differs from their own.


    KATE~ You are an extremely wonderful writer with a heart and mind of gold. I love to read your articles, this is one that really got my blood boiling. That person was very insensitive to write that, and you handled the situation much better than I would have. My uncle has Downs Syndrome, he is 55 years old. The doctors told my grandma that he would not live to be a year old, three years old at the most. He has defied all odds and is the best part of our family get togethers. His only “flaw” in life is that he is excessively happy-but that is not a bad thing to be 🙂 I love him dearly and can’t imagine my life without him in it. I have been to Wal-Mart with him before, and everyone knows him because of his contagious smile. I think that you and Christian are doing a fantastic job of raising Juliana-she is absolutely adorable and the best blessing from God!

  5. My first time to your blog and what an introduction! Greg is a lonely, sad, and negative person. You, clearly, are the complete opposite of all of those things. Yay for you.

    Your response was eloquent and I think you have every right to post it here, even if it does give Greg a half second of fame. Good for you.

    Sadly, like Daniel, I find these kinds of opinions all too common also. I come from England where healthcare is available to each and every person, regardless of their wealth or health. I find the system out here and many of the attitudes regarding improving the healthcare system out here, appallingly discompassionate.

  6. Thank you all for your lovely comments this morning. After the email bounced, I realized it was probably spam in the first place–and Rory, who told me on Facebook that I should ignore it, was right to begin with. (Naturally!) But I got to thinking this morning, that even if it is spam that has been flamed to multiple blogs across the web–somebody wrote it, and did so to achieve a purpose. They did it anonymously, they did it in a cowardly way, so they could blow off steam without looking publicly like the un-Christian, uncompassionate person that the comment makes them out to be. But nonetheless, they did it, and that means the POV is out there, even when people won’t admit it or claim it. It’s still buried, insidiously poisoning the larger culture. So I’m glad I took the time to respond. Share away (hint, hint! 😉 )

  7. Les Selage

    I’m trying to imagine the abuse a person must have undergone to look at a picture of Juilana and imagine that the world would be a better place without her. That she’s not worth the insruance dollars (or pennies) it would cost to provide her the same coverage we all get. How sad he wasn’t born into a home like yours.

  8. Matthew Luth


    I am privileged to be your Uncle and I am continually proud of your wisdom, sense of fairness and emphatic approach to your writing and opinions. I doubt this message was spam because it was much too specific which means “Greg” must have used a temporary address to hide behind. Julianna is so lucky to have such wonderful parents as you and Christian. I think the love she experiences from you, as I’m sure (I hope) most Down’s kids experience from their families far outweighs the negativity of people like Greg. Pray for him.

  9. I got a private message from a friend of mine who pointed out to me that my wording on the topic of diabetes and cancer were inappropriate. With her permission, I am including her comment (edited to protect privacy) below:
    “First, in response to “greg’s” line of saying you chose to have here, it is actually more about God choosing YOU to have your wonderful daughter. He chose you for a reason, and I think the reason is obvious–you are one of those people that can actually handle having a child with down’s gracefully, lovingly, and He used your gift of writing to convey to others the many challenges, and triumphs in being blessed by having a child w/down’s.

    I don’t know if you knew this or not, but for three years, I was an ETS-Employment Training Specialist, and most of the adults I serviced were those with Down’s. I helped them succeed in their jobs (varied from a Pet Store worker, to a restaurant worker, to a factory worker, and a few more) by supporting them at thier jobs. I trained them, stayed with them when needed, had meetings w/their employees or management, their parents, came up with alternative ways of teaching them how to do their jobs catered to thier abilites, and a number of other things to help them be successful individuals. It was an amazing experience, and I learned so much from all of my clients. I loved that job, and only left it b/c I was hired as a Youth Minister.

    I am saddened that even today, at this day and age, people can still be so closed minded about those with disabilities. I saw and experienced first hand, adults w/down syndrome having REAL jobs, making REAL money, having REAL realtionships and being REALLY successful individuals. It is my hope and prayer that one day, everyone can see the giftedness and abilities, rather than the disabilites, of all those affected w/any disablilty of any kind.

    The other thing I wanted to share w/you is about your statement about how cancer, diabetes tend to happen when someone chronically mistreats their body. I must respectfully disagree.

    While on the one hand, yes, we know there is some genetic disposition in some cases, and making bad life choices such as smoking can increase your chances of gettig cancer, there are countless people who are born with diabetes and cancer, even when there is no history of it in a family.
    Additionally, cancer can strike healthy people, who make nothing but great choices thier lives, too. Cancer can strike it’s ugly head at anyone, anytime. As can diabetes, too.

    I suppose what I am saying in all of this is just that thinking that cancer or diabetes tend to show up when someone mistreats themselves, is not fair to those people who just happened to get it.”

    So–I need to apologize for poor wording. I know very well that cancer & diabetes can strike out of nowhere, despite a person’s best efforts to promote health. I mentioned them because there are cases in which a person destroys their health by *not* taking care of themselves, and no one would ever question that insurance coverage is appropriate in those cases–rightly so. I was trying to say that “Greg”‘s arguement is a horrible argument to make regardless of whether we’re talking about diabetes, cancer, or disability. But obviously I made a clumsy job of it, so please accept my apologies.

    P., does that help redeem me?

  10. kittyreporter

    Your daughter seems like a lovely little girl. I feel sorry for the person who sent you such a horrible email. I wish you and your family a Happy New Year.

  11. good reply and that person must have a really big wart . I am curious about what his response was if he did reply or is it somewhere on your blog perhaps?

    I love your posts! You are a very good writer and I can only aspire to be such good a writer *sigh*

    • Hehehehe! Love the “wart” comment! I tried to email him the reply, and it bounced. So I know it was someone hiding in anonymity. Whether said anonymous person is reading this thread…who knows? I did my part by responding.

  12. First of all ((BIG HUGS))… somehow I missed this post until your Sunday Snippets appeared in my inbox.

    I agree with others who felt this wasn’t spam, as I’ve received plenty ‘o spam… they’ve never been relevant to the post. In fact, I’ve been tempted to write parodies on how un-relevant they were.

    I’ve come across some very sick, disturbing opinions while reading blogs …not here of course, but on sites where comments were automatically approved.

    It scared me to realize how inhumane our society can be, especially when the perceived value of life is so unequally measured.

    Unfortunately discrimination is alive and well, despite our culture’s “enlightenment” and political-correctness… the real message of equal-rights has yet to reach the hearts of many people who have never personally experienced injustice.

    Some of us are so blessed and fortunate, that we’ve been oblivious and/or narrow-sighted towards the sufferings of others.

    This blog of yours is a gift to the world; it allows us to share a slice of your life, teaching us invaluable lessons about Down’s and disabilities in general:

    Because these children are priceless. And anyone with a heart couldn’t help but feel for you, and want the best care for your children. We have only to look at our own children to understand that a parent would move heaven and earth to protect and provide for them.

    Keep fighting! And leave Greg to God, as He knows best how to deal with him. 😉

  13. evanscove

    I join the others in saying that the email you got from “Greg” could not have been spam–or at least it’s highly unlikely that it was. Sadly, this fellow “Greg” is a clod who badly needs to repent and get his mind and attitudes cleaned up. Frankly, he would have made a good Nazi with his mentality that some people are worthless and don’t deserve to live.

    And I must commend you for your kind and gracious response to him. If I had been in your shoes, my response to that guy would have been absolutely blistering. I have little patience for such callous thinking, but your handling of this situation has helped me see the need for showing compassion, while still being firm.

    Be blessed!


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