March 03, 2006

Whose right to life?

There was an article in this Monday's Metro that struck a chord with me. It was a follow-up to this article written in October about two-year-old Charlotte Wyatt, a child born prematurely with brain, lung and kidney damage and who is currently being kept alive on a ventilator.

Now, I know there are many people out there who do not believe in euthanasia in any form. I myself am not entirely sure where I stand on the issue. But suspend your judgement for a moment.

Even if we accepted that it was morally admissable to allow someone to die when they are mortally ill and suffering, there is still a further problem to consider. Who should have the responsibility of making the decision?

In the case of Charlotte, her parents disagree with the health professionals and the judge presiding over her case: they want her to be kept alive by every means possible. I can see both sides of the argument. The health professionals can objectively assess her condition and recognise that her quality of life is terrible. They believe that Charlotte's parents are being unjustifiably hopeful. But should a parent be forced to relinquish their control over the care of their own child?

It seems that in situations where a person cannot lucidly make a decision about their own life, the case becomes very difficult.


- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. My mother works with neonates( babies born prematurely) so I've talked with her a lot about the Charlotte Wyatt case in particular. To me, its incredibly sad because she needs constant ICU care, and she hasn't grown as much as you would expect a 'normal' child to, she isn't developing in line with expectations, and thats why the doctors and judge made the decisions that they did. It comes to a stage where the very existence of the child is so very painful (constant drugs which means use of ivs and nose/chest tubes, oxygen masks) that to prolong the life of that child seems more like torture than care.

    I feel awful for the parents who don't seem to be able to accet the truly heart-breaking situation: that the teeny tiny progression that they feel Charlotte is making is insignificant in comparison to her suffering :( I can't imagine how hard it is to lose a child, nor accept that your actions (turning off the equipment which is the only think keeping her alive) will lead to your child's death.

    Its awful, in every way.

    03 Mar 2006, 17:24

  2. Can i just check, from what i understood eithanasia was about prematurely causing death? Because in this case its more about with holding treatment which would artifically prolong life. I understand Christian's arguement that it is God and God only which has the right to cause death (whether i believe it or not) but does that not also mean that we dont have the right to go against 'God's decision' for death to occur by prolonging life – ventilators, life support etc etc etc?

    03 Mar 2006, 17:26

  3. careful amy, that could turn in a slippery slope argument claiming that any medicine or treatment in fact is going against god's decision…

    (i know that's not what you meant)

    03 Mar 2006, 18:15

  4. I just meant that the arguement used against euthanasia can also be used to argue against extend use of life support machines. I think its a very difficult choice to make and one i hope i am never faced with. Losing someone you love is never easy but knowing you can prevent and choosing whether to or not i image makes it even harder.

    03 Mar 2006, 18:35

  5. Euthanasia:
    'The act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal; injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment.'

    Although some other dictionaries only suggest that it's the cessation of life as the result of an active process, for example lethal injection. Either way , I meant it as the act of deciding to end someone's life sooner than is necessary, taking into consideration modern medicine.

    It is a very difficult issue. One argument that could be put forward for disallowing euthanasia could be the likelihood of the emergence of treatments that could help the person in question. The extra lifetime they could have had would have been wasted. However, does the tiny likelihood outweigh the merit of this possiibility, and who gets the job of predicting?

    04 Mar 2006, 01:22


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