Follow TV Tropes


Abandon the Disabled

Go To

"I suffered bodily pain when I was made to fall a long way by the efforts of my dog-faced mother, who wanted to hide me away for being lame. At that time I would have suffered many cares at heart, had not Thetis taken me to her bosom and Euronyme daughter of Ocean of the shifting tide."
Hephaestus, The Iliad, Book XVIII (translation by Caroline Alexander)

A character with a disability or deformity is abandoned by their family or caretakers. It could be that the character's parents can't afford their child's extra costs, they don't want a disabled individual, they think the child is cursed, or they don't want to deal with the personal loss of having their child die. Parents who want perfect Trophy Children will do this in extreme cases, if they don't instead hide away their child from public view.


Abandoning the person doesn't always imply abandoning them for dead. They could be left at an orphanage, hospital, doorstop, or some other facility. Sometimes, they'll be abandoned in a park or other setting with hopes that someone will pick them up.

Alternatively, this trope can involve one of the parents leaving their lover after they have a disabled child together. This is usually the father. This also applies to other situations of walking out on a person due to a disability, such as someone who leaves their spouse after they get into an accident.

This trope often appears in more "primitive" or dystopian societies where those with disabilities are ostracized. A Career-Ending Injury might lead to this in Proud Warrior Races.

Often overlaps with Parental Abandonment and Type 4 of Bury Your Disabled. Compare to That Thing Is Not My Child! for Speculative Fiction examples involving clones, changelings, etc.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Rico's parents in Gunslinger Girl left their bedbound daughter in a hospital and almost never visited.
  • In Berserk, Bishop Mozguz' Quirky Miniboss Squad is made up of severely deformed individuals (and a bishonen-looking guy whose skin burns in sunlight) who were abandoned by their families. Mozguz showing them kindness and his acceptance of them is why they display Undying Loyalty to him and serve as his personal torturers despite his being an obvious fanatic.
  • Before they joined the Noah's Ark Circus in Black Butler, most of the "first string" performers were homeless street urchins, abandoned by society due to their various disabilities, illnesses, and disfiguring injuries. Ringleader Joker is missing his right hand, Peter & Wendy are afflicted with a disease that stunts their grown, and the left side of Doll's face is burned and scarred.
  • Dororo: Kagemitsu Daigo abandons Hyakkimaru at birth because of his deal with demons to exchange parts of the child's body for power. He would've been dead too if Jukai didn't find him, take him in, and create prosthetic body parts for him. The story takes place in feudal Japan, so Hyakkimaru is very fortunate he ends up in Jukai's care.
  • This happens to Shoko Nishimiya in A Silent Voice. Her father ends up leaving her, her mother, and her sister when it was revealed she was deaf and believed it brought shame to his family.
  • In With the Light, after hearing about his son's autism diagnosis, Masato walks out on Hikaru. It doesn't last, fortunately.

    Comic Books 
  • In Preacher, one hitman hired by Starr used to be a rising star in the Mafia, until a deal with Russian criminals went wrong and they cut off his penis (while he himself had done so before, he at least left his victims an inch or so). This led to him being abandoned by his family since he no longer counts as a man.
  • In Batman, Harold Allnut was mute, hunchbacked and unwanted by his family. He didn't even know his last name, though Bruce was able to research it for his headstone.

    Fan Works 
  • The Warrior Cats fic The Broken Cat is about a kit born with three legs instead of four. She's kicked out of her Clan at birth for fulfilling a prophecy. She's adopted by BloodClan and named Snowy.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic Bubbles ends with Derpy's mother leaving her developmentally and physically impaired daughter for dead in a forest. Derpy survives the incident.
  • This is discussed in Blind Courage when Ganondorf and Aveil are discussing a blind Gerudo child, unknowingly Ganondorf's own daughter with Zelda, that they met in the woods. They don't know who the mother is but assume her Disappeared Dad is a Hylian. Both assume that the mother is in hiding, either because of the Fantastic Racism Gerudo often suffer or because the father abandoned his disabled child:
    Aveil: "The mother may very well be in hiding because of the girl's condition. I'll bet the child resembles her father very much, and he might be angry or disappointed in her disability."
    Ganondorf: "Such bullshit. Abandoning that precious angel over something so trivial... Don't those Hylians know their matron goddess is blind as well?"
  • Boris in Heritage of the Wolf was ran out off his flock of geese after he grew old and slow.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Heidi (2015), Frau Sesemann accuses her son of using his constant business trips as an excuse to avoid being around his wheelchair-bound daughter Klara.
  • In 300, Ephialtes was born deformed, but was raised by his parents instead of being abandoned like most unfit Spartan children. While Leonidas is sympathetic at first, he can't allow Ephialtes to serve because his deformities prevent him from taking part in the Shield Wall (and immediately becomes a Broken Aesop given that the following battles consist of duels instead of waiting out the arrow barrages), leading to Ephialties betraying the Spartans to the Persians.
  • Donnie in The Wolf of Wall Street mentions this by saying that if he had a retarded kid he'd drive the kid off to the woods and let him out, saying "You're free" before saying he was joking and he'd actually just have the kid institutionalized.

  • In The Red Tent, babies born with disabilities and defects are left to die. Leah was almost killed upon birth for having heterochromic eyes, under the belief that she was cursed, but her mother wouldn't allow it.
  • Squirrel's mother gave birth to a runt with misshapen legs in A Dog's Life. She kicked him out of the birthing wheelbarrow and he died a hour later.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg is nearsighted and wears contacts. He mentions that he is glad that he isn't a caveboy, because then his family might abandon him because he wouldn't be able to hunt.
  • In Guardians of Ga'Hoole spinoff series Wolves of the Beyond: The dire-wolf packs are highly prejudiced against wolves born with any form of deformity, such as a twisted paw or the lack of a tail. These pups are brought out to the wilderness, where they either die or manage to return, earning themselves a the lowest and most hated members of their pack.
  • At the end of the first book of the Monument 14 Trilogy, Dean, Astrid, and Chloe are left behind when the others leave the store, because they have type-O blood, and therefore are susceptible to the Hate Plague outside.
  • Teresa Asakuma in Rising Sun was born with a deformed hand, and was shunned by her neighbors and relatives in Japan; she came to America to escape this discrimination.
  • In The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, Trashman ended up in Resthaven after being abandoned as a child because of his profound intellectual disability. Even the people of Resthaven keep him at arm's length, believing that he might have evil spirits.
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • After Stormkit breaks his jaw, leaving him permanently disfigured and having difficulty eating, his mother Rainflower renames him Crookedkit and rejects him, making him The Unfavorite and leaving the nursery once his brother is apprenticed.
    • In the prequel series, Jagged Peak's leg is crippled in an accident. His brother Clear Sky drives him out of their group, since Clear Sky refuses to allow his group to tolerate weakness.
  • Survivor Dogs: Alpha doesn't like disabled dogs in his pack. After Twitch breaks his already lame paw, Twitch abandons his pack before he can be kicked out. When he meets Alpha again after having chewed off his broken paw, Alpha mocks him as "crippled".
  • Quasimodo was born to a family of Roma in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was rejected for his deformities and switched for a French baby, Esmeralda. The woman whose baby was switched also abandoned Quasimodo. Due to his deformities (and later his deafness), Quasimodo lives hidden from society in a bell tower.
  • Kea's Flight contains a prenatal example. Embryos that test positive for genetic disorders such as autism are removed from the womb and cryonically preserved for later. Before long so many embryos have been rejected that it becomes clear most of them will never be adopted, so instead they're put on starships and sent into space to colonize new worlds. They aren't really expected to survive the journey - the government only wants to get rid of them while still coming across as benevolent.
  • In Seeds of Yesterday, Melodie freaks out the moment her husband Jory is paralyzed in an accident and pulls away from him more and more—her mother-in-law Cathy has to literally drag her to the hospital to visit him—eventually having an affair with his brother and finally abandoning him and their children.
  • In Daystar and Shadow, this is the policy many towns have for dealing with autistic children. Robin was left in the desert to be eaten by fireworms, while Shadow was thrown off a cliff into the sea. Part of this is because life is difficult After the End and children who can't work are a liability, but the New Christian Church stresses the necessity of killing autistic children to a degree that often confuses outsiders.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Vikings when Ragnar's son Ivar is born handicapped and it's clear that the boy will never be able to walk, Ragnar advocates killing the boy, citing how in nature animals may turn away one of their own that is too weak to live and thrive. However, in the moment of truth, Ragnar is unable to go through with killing the child and tries to simply leave the baby in the wilderness instead. Ragnar's wife Aslaug rescues Ivar and brings him back to the house, and no further attempts at following this trope are made.
  • In The Gifted, one of Dr. Garber's patients is Shawna, a young mutant girl with Down syndrome whose parents left her at the clinic because they didn't want to deal with a daughter who was both developmentally disabled and a mutant.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent involves an Insufferable Genius who murdered the wife of his nemesis after she learned that he had a developmentally disabled son whom he had abandoned.
  • Played with in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Savant", where Mr. Nicholson walks out on his brain-damaged wife... after learning that she'd been harboring resentments towards their developmentally disabled daughter prior to the beating that caused her brain damage. He might have been willing to stay with her in order to help her recover, but decided that he didn't want to risk her hurting their daughter if she ever regained her former personality.
  • In one episode of Caso Cerrado, a man wished to divorce his wife because she had breast cancer.
  • Inverted on General Hospital after Jason Quartermaine's car accident. He wakes up not knowing who any of his loved ones are and despite all their efforts to accommodate him, he eventually walks out on them and has as little to do with them as possible.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Some accounts of Hephaestus's origin have his mother, Hera, throw him off of Mount Olympus because he was born lame.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Many children born with mutations or with animal features are abandoned, more often than not surviving, being adopted by other Chaos mutants or beastmen, and growing up hating the society that gave them birth.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, the High Elves of the Summerset Isles are extreme perfectionists, seeking perfect beauty in both people and architecture. People with disabilities, called Hulkynd, are cast out of their society completely and treated terribly by everyone they meet. One such Hulkynd, named Manacar, is introduced to the player during a quest. He appears to be struggling to make ends meet, doing odd jobs for various High Elf officials for less gold than he deserves.
  • After the prince from The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince was blinded, his father locked him in the dungeon due to his hatred of facial deformities.
  • In Chrono Trigger, the Lost Sanctum is a Hidden Elf Village of Reptites (sentient talking dinosaurs) who've survived until at least the Middle Ages. While those in the village are green-skinned, the enemy Reptites called Exiles are grey-skinned with orange eyes (whether they're exiled because of their skin color is unknown.)
  • In The Walking Dead Video Game Season 2, Sarah seems to have an Ambiguous Disorder and is frequently The Load. Although the player/Clementine has the option of helping her, such as teaching her how to properly handle a gun or watching out for her while they're being held captive by bad guys, Episode 4 has her left catatonic after witnessing her father getting killed and it's up to the player's choice over whether or not you forcibly rescue her from the advancing horde of zombies or leave her behind (though ultimately, it doesn't matter, as she'll still die later in the episode). This has gotten some accusations of Unfortunate Implications, not helped that the writers have stated that they disliked Sarah for being The Load.

    Western Animation 
  • In Bojack Horseman, BoJack attempts to leave a senile, dementia-ridden Beatrice to rot in some dumpy old nursing home (after she gets Hollyhock overdosed on amphetamines). He stops dead in his tracks when she finally recognizes him and calls out his name. However, he still leaves her there but, not without implanting a last happy memory in her mind.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television in some societies including Ancient Rome, where a father could declare whether or not he intended to raise his newborn. If not, the child was left exposed in the wilderness to die.
    • Similar to Rome is Sparta, where disabled or weak children were murdered by being thrown off a cliff or left to die by exposure.
  • Reversed in the Byzantine empire, where an emperor had to be in perfect physical condition to rule. So a deposed emperor would be blinded, castrated and then thrown into a monastery to prevent a Rightful King Returns scenario before it could even start.
  • This tends to happen a lot in any animal that have litters or lives in a group unit. If a member of the litter is deformed or disabled, the mother will reject or, in the case of smaller animals, eat it. Some species, however, do take care of their weak, especially if they're older.
  • A newly re-emerging trend of "granny dumping", where people strand their elderly relatives in public places or just leave them nursing homes. In Japan, some charities created the elderly version of safe locations.
    • It may contain some elements of Kick the Son of a Bitch if said elderly relation is/was abusive.
    • Like the "granny dumping" mentioned above, this (or a milder form thereof) also happens with profoundly mentally ill or disabled children (or other relatives), however, more often than not, in more recent cases, this is mostly because they can't afford to care for them, in which case, they surrender them to social services.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: