Mum to royal commission: ‘I was told to abort my son’
TONI Mitchell bravely sat in front of the nation's gaze to tell the story of how doctors told her to terminate her son with a disability Joshy nearly 20 years ago, straight after her first ultrasound.
"He said, 'Your baby has a heart condition. We can see that there's no walls inside his heart, and so you're probably going to miscarry within the next couple of weeks'," she said during her testimony to the Disability Royal Commission on Wednesday.
"I was still crying, and then he … said, 'So here's your appointment for a termination', gave me a piece of paper and walked out."
The Toowoomba mother and disability advocate was one of several people from around the country to give evidence to the sweeping royal commission in Sydney this week.
Ms Mitchell, whose 19-year-old son Joshy has Down syndrome and a variety of complex conditions, called for sweeping reforms to the medical profession in the way it treats people with disabilities.
She said the ultrasound confrontation was the start of an ongoing fight for Joshy's rights.
"That was the moment I had to start justifying my son's right to live and to be treated, and I had to start justifying his value to be alive," she said in her testimony.
"They kept saying, 'You don't understand what you're doing. You don't understand what a burden this is going to be on you and on society and on your family'."
Ms Mitchell also told the commission about another major battle, which came in 2014 when Joshy was constipated for six weeks.
"When I finally got those referrals to specialists, we started seeing a gastroenterologist
at the Royal Children's (Hospital), but she never once actually examined him," she said.
"The first time she walked in, she looked at him across the room in his pram and said, 'Well, he has Down syndrome,' and said, 'He's just being lazy. Give him so many sachets of Movicol a day'."
Joshy later had a section of bowel removed, after biopsies and studies showed he had significant internal deformities.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Ms Mitchell said she was grateful for the chance to speak to the royal commission, hoping it would help others.
"There has to be a fundamental change the medical sector looks at disability," she said.
"Within the system itself, we've got examples where Joshy has had incorrect surgeries done, or Joshy has been dismissed or ignored on medical issues.
"They have written incorrect reports and refused to correct him, so his medical records are inaccurate.
"We're just very grateful for this opportunity.
"It's too late to help Joshy, but if we can make a difference for everyone else coming into the system, we're grateful to be a part of it."
The public hearings around health care in the disability sector will run for another week.
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