The Florida Board of Medicine revoked a Sarasota OB-GYN’s medical license last Friday for aborting the wrong baby of a mother pregnant with twins. Dr. Matthew Kachinas mistakenly killed a healthy baby girl instead of her twin brother who had Down syndrome and possible congenital defects. State records showed that Kachinas made a $250,000 liability settlement with K.M. for “an incident” on the day of her selective termination.
Dr. Matthew Kachinas performed abortions regularly, but never before had attempted this particular type of procedure, known as a “selective termination.” This procedure targets a specific unborn baby, usually when one of the babies is diagnosed with an abnormality, often in the second trimester. In such cases, the unborn baby is killed with a chemical injection that stops his heart. He shrivels up and dies in utero, while the other baby is left to develop.
Dr. Kachinas agreed to treat a woman, identified as K.M. in the records, who was 16 weeks pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. Doctors counseled K.M. that “selective termination” was an option after learning that the male baby had health problems, including a possible heart defect and Down syndrome. The female baby appeared normal.
A week and a half later, K.M. returned to the doctors at Florida Perinatal Associates, who were monitoring her high-risk pregnancy. An ultrasound revealed that the healthy baby girl had been killed and that the baby still alive was the boy with Down syndrome. The mother returned to Kachinas several days later to abort him as well.
This heartbreaking story reveals how determined some people are to avoid having a disabled child. This mother chose to have an abortion not once, but twice. When the first abortion mistakenly killed her healthy baby, she returned to have another abortion to ensure that she did not deliver her baby with Down syndrome and other health problems. Sadly, her actions reflect a mindset many people have toward individuals with disabilities—that somehow their lives are valueless and not deserving of being lived.
Over the past twenty years, the increase in children aborted upon the diagnosis of Down syndrome has drastically increased. In the United States, the percentage of Down syndrome babies carried to term is less than 10%. In Ireland, up to 50% of children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. This number is shocking, but is relatively low when compared to the neighboring United Kingdom, where the number is around 90%.
Such high percentages of abortions after a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome are appalling. What kind of discriminatory society do we live in where we kill babies because they have some sort of disability? Do we see these children as unfit to live or too great a burden on our lives? How much longer until it becomes acceptable to kill children if they become permanently disabled or paralyzed?
When prenatal testing identifies a condition, such as Down syndrome, the only form of care offered should be to provide families with true support– medical, spiritual, and psychological. Children with Down syndrome bring much joy and love to their families. These individuals should never be treated as useless or inconvenient members of the human family.
We must work to ensure that the lives of all unborn children—regardless of disability or illness—are protected, cared for, and welcomed into life by their families and physicians.