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Extraordinary Values: The Worth of a (Handicapped) Child

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Extraordinary Values: The Worth of a (Handicapped) Child

October 12, 2010

Imagine you're the parent of a child with a deadly disease—one that will kill the child by her ninth birthday. And there's no cure.

Now, imagine you have a second child—and he has the very same disease. What would you do? Sit back and wait for them to die—or move heaven and earth to save them?

In the film Extraordinary Measures, this is the situation the a couple faces. And what they do flies in the face of modern views about the value of children with handicaps.

Extraordinary Measures is based on Geeta Anand's book, The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million—and Bucked the Medical Establishment—in a Quest to Save His Children.

In the movie, John and Eileen Crowley have a young son and daughter, both afflicted with Pompe disease. The disease is caused by a buildup of glycogen, a complex sugar in the cells of the body, which impairs the ability of certain organs and tissues to function normally.

Children afflicted with this inherited disorder typically die before they hit their teens. The Crowleys refuse to accept this terrible prognosis. John Crowley spends every spare minute searching out bio-medical research focused on Pompe disease. He becomes convinced that a rogue scientist named Dr. Robert Stonehill is on the right track, and flies to Nebraska to meet with him.

Stonehill (played by Harrison Ford) is an eccentric man with a short fuse. And he's frustrated by his lack of ability to attract funding for his research. He promptly offers Crowley a job: that is, finding investors to fund his research. After all, Stonehill says, "Who's going to be half as motivated as a dad who's trying to save his own kids?"

And so the race is on—a race for funds, a race for a cure.

Meanwhile, the Crowley kids are getting worse. When their daughter is hospitalized, a doctor tells the Crowleys to prepare themselves for her death—a death that is actually a blessing, they are told, since it means she will no longer suffer.

Well, I won't tell you whether God decided to grant such a "blessing," because I don't want to spoil the ending for you. It's a great film, which gripped Patty and me when we watched it a few weeks ago.

Long-time BreakPoint listeners will know why this film moved us so much. Our nineteen-year-old grandson, Max, is autistic. He's growing up in a culture that assigns less and less value to less-than-perfect children. As I've said before on BreakPoint, Max taught me what true love is. He brings so much joy to our family, that we can't imagine life without him. My daughter Emily tells Max's story in her beautiful new book, Dancing with Max, which, of course, you can get at the Colson Center bookstore.

I hope you'll rent "Extraordinary Measures" and invite your friends over to watch it. And then, talk about the film, and about its message—parents who love their handicapped children and would do anything to save them—conflicts with the messages our culture teaches about them.

Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, for instance, would say let them die and increase the world's happiness. A government health care bureaucrat might well say, it's not worth the cost of finding a cure for a handful of kids who have this disease.

But it's the biblical worldview that best matches reality: These children are pearls of great price—of inestimable value to their families; and of course, to God.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.