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The court on Baby Doe

IN its decision in the ``Baby Doe'' case, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled out any federal government role in mandating special medical treatment for seriously ill or deformed infants. This welcome ruling removes an intrusive federal presence from the lives of parents who must make difficult decisions on the care of these infants.

The case arose after the Reagan administration used a law to prevent discrimination against the handicapped as the basis for agency rules that would require hospitals to administer heroic medical treatment to such infants against families' wishes. Big Brother seemed to be stalking the hospital corridors; a federal ``hot line'' was established for anonymous tipsters to call in allegations of inadequate treatment.

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As the case was argued before the Supreme Court, however, no evidence was produced that babies were being abused or neglected as a result of allowing parents, in consultation with their physicians and clergy, to follow the dictates of conscience within their rights to privacy.

There was also no evidence that decisions against having extraordinary medical treatment for these babies reflected any ``discrimination'' against the handicapped on the part of hospitals. Moreover, state laws against child abuse remain on the books.

How ironic that these rejected regulations were promulgated by an administration that usually presents itself as seeking to lift the heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy from people's lives.

The families facing these extremely delicate decisions need to be supported by their communities, and not to be drawn into a legal entanglement at the behest of meddlesome federal authorities.

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