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Abandon the Disabled

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"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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Rico's parents in Gunslinger Girl left their bedbound daughter in a hospital and almost never visited.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Boris in Heritage of the Wolf was run out of his flock of geese after he grew old and slow.
  • In A Thing of Vikings, defied and discussed; the Hooligans of Berk, thanks to having a low birthrate from dragon venoms causing miscarriages, don't engage in the exposure of disabled, sickly, or premature infants (like Hiccup) that other Norse societies would have during the era. Dragons, however, would often abandon their own who were disabled, especially if they were unable to fly.
  • In the Better Bones AU, as in canon, Clear Sky kicks Jagged Peak out of the group for his leg injury. Unlike in canon the moor group has not split up from the forest group yet, so Jagged Peak is left alone with only Gray Wing and Bright Storm to stay with him and try to keep him fed and alive while he is unable to hunt. Despite their efforts Jagged Peak dies as a result. This is followed by his son Thunder Storm being born missing the exact same leg Jagged Peak broke, which causes everyone to think their ancestors are sending him a message about his cruelty. However, Clear Sky refuses to listen and abandons Thunder Storm too. This is what causes the forest group to split up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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, leading to Ephialties betraying the Spartans to the Persians.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: One of the means by which the story has a Deconstruction to its Reincarnate in Another World plot is by having the protagonist be reborn into a poor family. However, her new body is also too sickly to contribute much to the household until she slowly gets it in better shape and uses her Past-Life Memories to secure a job that requires skills that are relatively rare in the setting. There are two different alternate point of view chapters in which the narrator is surprised that the protagonist hasn't been abandoned by her family to be able to dedicate more resources to more able-bodied children, which is what most poor families in the setting would have done.
  • 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.
  • The anthology Defying Doomsday (edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench) concerns disabled people in post-apocalyptic scenarios, and thus there are a few stories where society or even their own families abandon the disabled protagonists. They manage to survive anyway, often outliving those that abandon them. The sequel anthology Rebuilding Tomorrow, which is set a bit farther After the End, also has societies that do this as a rule under the premise of "people who can't work are useless" and usually get Laser-Guided Karma for it.
  • 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.
  • 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 an hour later.
  • In Dean Koontz's novel Dragon Tears, one of The Protagonist cops has an ex-partner who was shot and critically injured while off duty. While he survived, he was seriously and permanently crippled by his injuries and his wife left him after it became clear he would not recover to anything like the man he used to be.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Poetic Edda the idea is alluded to, but dismissed by Odin in Hávamál as considers no one useless.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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".
  • Warformed Stormweaver: "Medical abandonment" is when parents give up a child to the state due to the child being born with some disease or disability. The government provides free health care either way, but the emotional burden is often too much for parents to bear, especially since most disabilities that can't be cured by this point are really horrible chronic ailments. Reidon Ward has a joint ossification disorder that basically means all his soft tissues slowly turn to bone; he's had weekly surgeries his entire life. At the end of the novel, someone implied to be his grandfather thinks he's finally found his lost grandson, still pissed that his worthless son and daughter-in-law managed to hide Rei from him for so long.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
    • Then it's tragically brought up again as Ivar leaves out (what he at the time incorrectly believes is) his newborn son Baldur to die after the child has been born with an unspecified disability hinted at being a cleft lip.
  • The X-Files: The infamous episode "Home" begins with a woman giving birth to a horribly deformed infant, which is buried alive by three similarly deformed men. The men are the three brothers of the Peacock family, and the infant was the result of the incestuous relationship between them and their own mother, a quadruple amputee who's kept hidden in the house. According to the rest of the town, the Peacock's have been reproducing through inbreeding since the American Civil War.

    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 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 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.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: The Tenakth are a Proud Warrior Race who greatly value both personal strength and contributing to the tribe. So if someone is disabled (either mentally or from a crippling injury), they force them to fight a machine to prove that they can. If they succeed, great, they're welcomed back. If they fail, well, now they're dead.
  • 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 The Walking Dead Season 2, Sarah 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).

    Web Animation 

    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 
  • Famously defied by early humans, whose fossils show signs of long term care of crippling injuries. Margaret Meade described it as the first sign of civilization in a culture.
  • 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.
    • Pre-Christian Scandinavia did have laws that allowed parents to leave out newborns to die. The keyword being allowed, as it does not seem to have been decent thing to do. See the entry on the Poetic Edda above.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • This tends to happen a lot in any animal that has 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.