Regardless of how you feel about the home birth movement, whether you are a full supporter, on the fence, or it makes you uncomfortable, the fact of the matter is the push for women to have freedom of choice in birth rests largely on the fact that the majority of low-risk births are safe and uncomplicated. The thought is, the risk is worth the reward. (If you are interested in reading about home birth some good links to some of the many, many articles on the topic can be found here, here and here as well as this interesting Master's Thesis.) The same can be applied to parenting. The risks are worth the reward.
We spend so much time saying things like, "but even one, is one too many," or the politicians' favorite, "but, as long as it prevents even one fatality then [insert whatever legal precedent you want to use to enact new restrictions] is totally justified and worth it." Here in America we are positively obsessed with reaching a zero percent mortality rate.
It isn't possible. We could require children to submit to 24/7 surveillance and we will still have children who die. We will still have children who are kidnapped, molested, injured. The old saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way. We can force vaccinations on everyone and there will be some that die from the vaccinations. We can throw up our hands and stop vaccinating all together, and someone will die of a "preventable" disease. We can strap every child in to a giant bubble wrap car seat, but the fact of the matter is that not every child will survive to see adulthood. We can legislate ourselves into a coma, and it still isn't ever going to happen. Reaching a zero percent mortality rate is completely unobtainable. Children are going to die, and the families will need our support, not our judgment and finger pointing. It sounds harsh, I know, but it is reality.
The Husband, reading over my shoulder just now, pointed out that this argument is much like the argument Sheldon and Leonard have on The Big Bang Theory about Leonard's surgery. Sheldon says he should not have it because he has a 1/700,000 chance of dying from general anesthesia. Leonard then says, all the more reason to have it because he has 699,999/ 700,000 chance of being fine. Sheldon then crunches the numbers which ultimately brings Leonard's chance of dying "down to a sphincter tightening 1:300."
And that is it. Can something happen to your kids if you leave your kids unattended while you run to the post office, or the bank, or the store? Yes. Can something happen if you let them walk to the park alone? Yes. Can something happen if you choose to vaccinate, or don't choose to vaccinate? Yes and yes. If we used the same number crunching gymnastics that Sheldon used, we would all be paralyzed with fear that death is lurking around every corner. But, things like that are rare, which is why they call it a freak accident. Of course, if something does happen our first instinct is to point a finger and demand to know, "where were the parents?"
Ultimately, chances are pretty darn good that they will be just fine. If you trust your kids to stay home alone for short periods of time, chances are you are right. If you feel safe enough in your neighborhood to let them walk to the park alone, you are probably right. You know your kids better than anyone, and chances are nothing bad will happen. Every choice you make for your kids carry risks and much like the cop who has to make a split second decision, you have to understand that if something does go wrong.... you will be publicly crucified. We will blame the victim, point our fingers, wring our hands, start a non-profit and demand "justice."
All that reaction really does, though, is assure that we are making parents more and more afraid. They are afraid that if they aren't watching 24/7 they won't be able to defend themselves if something happens. And something will eventually happen, to someone anyway. No one wants to be the 1 in 700,000, but it happens. Life doesn't come with guarantees.
Therefore, I say we take a page out of the home birth movement's book. Yes bad things will happen. Yes they may or may not be "preventable," but ultimately we need to make sure that parents have the right to make those calls, to take those risks, to utilize those options without fear of ridicule or legal and criminal ramifications.
Ask yourselves, do we want to bend over backwards, tying ourselves in knots trying to live in fear of the being the 1? Or do we want to make decisions based on the 699,999? I think the home birth movement has it right. Parents should educate themselves to the all the risks and choose for themselves. They should be able to make those choices without fear of legal prosecution or having their lives placed under the public microscope if they make the wrong choice. I am pretty sure losing a child is punishment enough.