The news story from the United Kingdom-based Daily Mail Online was horrifying. The headline says it all: Now sick babies go on death pathway: Doctor’s haunting testimony reveals how children are put on end-of-life plan. (I’m sorry I don’t feel I can link to the story given the other ‘content’ on the site).
I tried to find the article from the British Medical Journal that prompted the Daily Mail article, but it isn’t available online. The comments are, however, including one from Dr. Laura de Rooy, consulting neonatologist at St. George’s hospital who was also quoted in the Mail Online article.
First, her quote from the Mail Online article:
In a response to the article, Dr Laura de Rooy, a consultant neonatologist at St George’s Hospital NHS Trust in London writing on the BMJ website, said: ‘It is a huge supposition to think they do not feel hunger or thirst.’
This is her actual response to the original British Medical Journal article. Emphases in bold are mine:
I read with interest the recent BMJ article entitled: ‘How it feels to withdraw feeding from a newborn baby.’ Although I appreciate that this is an interesting and poignant reflection, I do not believe that the piece represents current practice in the UK, or aligns the case to current UK guidance.
The article references the American and Canadian guidance on the subject, which indeed suggests that it may be ethically appropriate to withdraw feed and fluids under certain carefully delineated conditions. It is interesting to note that the research underpinning this guidance mostly relates to adults, and refers to a lack of hunger and thirst in those who are approaching death. It would be extremely difficult to assume that babies who are facing death because of congenital abnormalities are similar to cachectic adults dying from cancer. It is a huge supposition to think that such infants do not feel hunger, or thirst.
If Dr. de Rooy is correct, then it is not standard practice in the UK. We have no way to corroborate the assertion by the anonymous doctor that he has overseen the death of 10 children. I also have no doubt that some doctors in the UK are practicing illegal euthanasia on disabled and sick children in the UK. And even if it is ‘only’ one child, it must be exposed.
But it was the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that had this statement in 2009 about American hospitals (emphasis in bold is mine):
Decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment from critically or terminally ill children are commonly made in US and Canadian hospitals.
Diekema DS, Botkin JR. Committee on Bioethics. Clinical report- foregoing medically provided nutrition and hydration in children. Pediatrics 2009;124:813-22.
To be fair, the article from Pediatrics is focusing on fairly narrow categories of disability and not all critically or terminally ill children. But that decisions ‘are commonly made’ is still troubling.
Many of the comments I’ve read on the Daily Mail Online article are predicting this is what will happen to healthcare in the United States under what is known as Obamacare.
Unfortunately, I think it is just as likely that we’re emulating what happened after World War II. As a country we condemned the horrible eugenic policies of Nazi Germany that resulted in the Holocaust, and neglected to note that the Nazis were taking their ideology and practices from the United States. This time, let us link arms with our brothers and sisters in the pro-life movement in the UK to condemn such practices here and there.