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John David (1982)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Judith gives birth to a baby boy who she and her husband Patrick provisionally name Jack. The baby seems to sleep all the time and doesn't cry and they are told by a paediatrician that he has Down's Syndrome. Judith decides she doesn't want to keep him. A nurse tries to persuade her that the baby needs her and that some people would consider it a privilege to have such a child. Judith discharges herself and asks Patrick to get her some pills to make her breast milk dry up.

Back at home Judith's mother supports her decision to 'abandon' the baby, but another relative writes to her criticising her decision. She is visited by a social worker who suggests there are other options, such as having the baby home for a few days, or partial care, but when she tries to persuade Judith to see other Down's Syndrome children Judith says "I'd prefer it if you called them mongols".

Despite having rejected the baby they still have to register the birth. Judith registers him as John David, taking the names arbitrarily from the registrar's name and that of an artist whose name is on a painting in the registrar's office.

Judith and Patrick get the all clear to have another baby. A different social worker arrives and asks about non-preventative medical care for John David. Judith tells her they would not sue anybody if he died. That night she cries for the first time. Judith tells Patrick she has only been able to let the baby go by thinking he's a monster. They learn from the social worker that John David has died. After the funeral, which she attends with the social worker and a nurse from the hospital, Judith breaks down.