The Cyclops Child: What Would You Have Done?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 06:38 AM

As a dad with five kids and someone who has had plenty of contact with doctors and hospitals — and as a man with a disability — the issues raised by our interview with Dr. Fredric Newman are powerful and deeply haunting.

His story of the Cyclops baby he encountered early in his medical career conveys the power of compassion against all odds and the power of doctors who can make decisions for people without their knowledge or consent.

This story pushes all the buttons. Dr. Neuman's life was clearly changed by this event and his sharing of the story, and the decisions and judgments made by Dr. Neuman and his colleagues will change you too.

This is a conversation you are going to want to be a part of. Listen and let us know how you would have resolved the "Cyclops Baby Parable." Perhaps you think it's simple, or (closer to Dr. Neuman's position), you think it is the kind of event that breaks down moral clarity and forces us to think of life and humanity in different ways, forces us to shed our notions of black and white.

I know I'm still thinking about it, as Dr. Neuman has for more than 50 years.

More in:

Comments [6]

Britney Wain from AL

There are no justifications for his actions what so ever. The baby could have received pain relievers and nourishment through a gastrointestinal tube. I have worked with terminal patients who were grossly mistreated and I am only 28 I did what I could while I was working to make their quality of life for however long more bearable, as any medical professional should do even it was fifty years ago there was morphine, there were things that could have been done to help this infant suffer less until it's death. What was done was immoral on every level. The only reason this man wrote this article was to garner sympathy for himself, and make himself feel a little justified a few people agreed with him. Hitler had numerous followers but his actions weren't justified and there was no justification for what was done to this infant. My only sympathy is for this infant thank God there is a heaven and a God who saw fit to end this baby's suffering. Perhaps this child was a test from God as to your character and compassion. You get an F.

Aug. 27 2015 12:51 AM
Kayla Thibodeaux from Kinder, la

If it was me I think I would have put a feeding tube in the baby's stomach so it can eat that isn't as bad for letting the baby starve like that. I'm a mother of four babies and if something like that would have happened to any of my babies I would have taken care of my baby no matter what. That's my child and I carried mc baby for nine months you get very attached to the little parson inside of you. That baby feels everything that the mother feels. That doctor shouldn't have done that and God is letting you know that you where very wrong in letting that baby starve like that and far telling the parents that there baby was dead. That was very wrong they should have had a chance to meet there baby no matter what. I don't have any disability and all my children came out normal so you can't say that people with disabilities feel definitely about it. I'm very normal and if I had a baby that was born like that I would definitely want to see my baby no matter how long they live. At least I would get to hold my baby and give my baby a chance to hear my voice and hug my baby and give my baby kisses and let my baby that I love my baby very much. I'm just saying. So the baby knows someone loves them.

Jun. 09 2015 02:59 PM
Daphne from Westchester

"In 2006, a baby was born with Cyclopia to a mother in India. While most of the infants born with this condition die within moments of birth, this baby lived beyond the 11th day. Some believed the infant was the physical manifestation of a God and worshipped both the infant and the parents"
That is certainly a different perspective. Looks like the parents were able to handle the news. Perhaps this families religious and moral fiber was stronger than that of the doctors. Concluding how others would feel and making judgements for them is wrong in any circumstance.

Jul. 19 2012 08:36 AM
Thorin Tritter from New York

I direct a medical ethics program called FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics) that takes medical students to Europe where they study the actions of doctors during the Holocaust and then use that historical framework to consider difficult ethical cases like the one Dr. Newman described and think through what is the "right" response. Pediatric care, in particular, raises ethical issues because the patients cannot express their wishes. The axiom of "do no harm" is sometimes not enough guidance. Today, it sounds like the "Cyclops Baby" might well have fit under the Groningen Protocol for child euthanasia. This is another controversial topic, but one that helps students and doctors think through the ethical issues. Anyway, thanks for sharing this story.

Jul. 19 2012 07:43 AM
Renee McClean

Given the trauma the medical staff (Dr. Neuman) suffered, there is no question that the family of the child would have been unspeakably scarred for life. It seems the doctors came to an obvious conclusion that this was a hopeless situation which none of them could have alleviated due to the gross anatomical deficiencies of the child. It appears their hands were tied and no alternatives were presented. Dr. Neuman was in a most unenviable position but the consequence was that his humanity was uniquely shaped and his sensitivity was heightened. I'm sure all his patients benefitted. In the end, we all benefitted from hearing his story because the listener was forced to reexamine the concepts of justice and morality, as difficult as it was. At times it is a necessary exercise.

Jul. 18 2012 09:43 PM
Jene Nickford

The doctor did the right thing. This child had too many things wrong. The mother would have been traumatized if she had seen her baby. What would be the purpose of having the child live a few more days? Anyhow, they couldn't feed it, so they really didn't hasten it's death. The doctor was kind to the mother. He didn't gain anything by telling the mother it was born dead. In a way it really was!

Jul. 18 2012 05:29 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.