Emerald Gryphon

Ramblings from an ex-squid on politics, religion, current events, and whatever else catches my attention.

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Life, death, and illness

Posted by emeraldgryphon on Thursday, 28 October 2010


Over at Bobbi’s place there is a little discussion on this post about palliative care for infants. First, RTWT.

Maybe I look at things differently than most, but I didn’t see the horror in that article the same way as others. It seemed to me to be a real look at how to help both infants and parents / families deal with a terminally ill infant after the decision is made to stop keeping them alive. The horrors I came away with is that we are prohibited by law from helping ease the process. We cannot give an overdose of morphine or any other common drugs that would end the pain quickly. All we are allowed to do is remove food and water until their bodies fail. That’s barbaric. If you would do that to a terminally ill dog you would go to jail. Why do we treat people worse than dogs in end of life situations?

This has made me reflect some on the recent serious illness in my home. My daughter was born in mid-September. When she was two weeks old she came down with pertussis (whooping cough). She almost died. She is home now, after over three weeks in the hospital, the majority of it in pediatric ICU. There were a few days in the middle that we weren’t sure if her heart could take the stress, and there were worries about brain damage from the hypoxia. There seems to be no damage, thankfully, because during the incident at home when she quit breathing, turned blue and went completely unresponsive my wife was able to give rescue breathing (CPR) while we were waiting for the ambulance. The second time she reacted this way she was in the hospital and they were able to intubate her to maintain both her airway and her blood oxygen levels while she didn’t have the strength to breathe on her own.

So, back to life and death decisions. What if the hypoxia had left her in a persistent vegetative state? You know, autonomous functions active (breathing, heart beating, etc) but no higher brain function? Legally, it would be up to us (her parents) to make the decisions regarding end of life, but if we decided to let her pass the only option would be to pull the feeding tubes and let her starve to death. The law prohibits us from helping the process. As I commented over there, it feels like a throwback to the catholic rule that fasting was the only acceptable method of suicide, as all other methods imply a lack of faith in God. That’s unacceptably barbaric, and you wouldn’t do it to a pet. Why, if we revere human life, do we treat people so horribly at end of life?

Would we have made the decision to let our daughter pass? I don’t know. That would have depended on a lot of factors, from amount of damage to possibility of recovery. Thankfully we didn’t have to make that decision.




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