Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Baby Joseph - state murder or not?

Baby Joseph is a 13 month old baby who is on life support and in a vegetative state (the five main areas of his brain have been damaged by a severe degenerative neurological condition). In the hospital, his parents want to take him home to die "in their arms" but the state has issued a court order to pull out the respirator and "let nature take its course" and the pro life movement is going ballistic, comparing the case to the regrettable murder of Terry Schiavo.

However, it's not the same. Schiavo was severely handicapped but from neurologists who examined her case history and even from films on the website, not in a persistent vegetative state - she was non verbal but teased her doctor and followed with her eyes and smiled at her parents. A neurologist in Florida opined that she could have been rehabbed and he had in fact, rehabbed several cases with similar CT scan results. And Schiavo was an adult whose rights should not have been turned over to her divorced estranged husband. She breathed on her own and they enforced her starving to death by pulling her feeding tube and stationing 5 police officers on guard around the bed to prevent family from feeding her by mouth (she could eat soft foods by mouth and of course, could take liquids). That was first degree murder and sadly the whole country stood by and watched.

Baby Joseph needs a trach to be allowed to leave the hospital. The doctors say that they know a lot more about trachs and that he could die on the table and secondly, probably wonder if his parents want to see him bleeding from the trach, his insides ripping up and suctioning the trach tube every 2 hours etc. So in this case, there might be a medical reason to withdraw the respirator.

However, the pro life movement is comparing it to Schiavo and there is really no resemblance. Terry was not dying and could have been rehabbed. Baby Joseph is dying. Terry was not really vegetative but rather non verbal and severely handicapped. But Baby Joseph is vegetative.

Here are a couple of comments which were very relevant on one of the news sites:

From Doug in Canada:
It's hard not to get choked up reading about kids like this.It hits everyone hard.This is the sad part of life.But it is life in the real world. Lord knows if this was my child,I would likely be hanging on to the very last breath too. But here's the thing.First,the father wants the child to die a "natural" death.In truth,isn't it already to late for that? Were it not for medical intervention,he would probably not have survived this long.Prolonging the suffering of this child is not something they are doing for the child,the parents are doing that for themselves. Saying good-bye to your child is the worst of all horrors, and one that no one wants to face.But there are times when you have to let go.If this child cannot recover from this,the sooner the parents face that reality,the better it will be for everyone. Every life counts.But prolonging the suffering of someone incurable,is just plain cruel.And not only that,the resources that the health care system spends trying to prolong a life that seems lost already,could be far better used to save a child who can be saved. Logic and reason aside,my heart goes out to all those involved.I readily concede that it's easier to use logic and reason when you're far removed from the family,and the pain they must be in.It's not easy to use logic and reason when the issue is about your family.While I don't think prolonging this child's suffering is the right thing to do,I can't criticize this family unless I walk in their shoes.

From Rick in SJ
Playing God?? Oh you guys are having it backwards. ... It is because of medicine and modern science that this child is as old as he is now. For them to pull the plug is not playing God, for when the plug IS pulled...isn't it "the will of God" that will take him from them? If he wanted the child to live, he would have him breathing on his own and etc.You are thinking this backwards. I almost lost a son too when he was 2 months of age and had the doctors told me that he wouldn't have lived, and given the objective information (no reflexes, full vegetative state) I would have done what they asked...they are PROFESSIONALS who deal with life and death every day...there isn't emotion attached to this.

Bottom line, perhaps we should pick our battles more carefully. While this is a sad case, it may not be the one to make a media event to prove a point which may not even be relevant to the pro life cause.

Breaking news: Baby Joseph may be moved to a Detroit hospital, sources now say.

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