Why should we care about euthanasia as present in Britain? I care because we are following in their footsteps. How soon before Obama-care mandates cost cutting methods effecting care of the elderly and the weakest among us. Abortion is only the beginning!
How opposed to First, do no harm, or, in Latin, primum non nocere, a medical injunction (the "Hippocratic oath" is this:
"THEY WISH FOR THEIR BABY TO GO QUICKLY. BUT I KNOW, AS THEY CAN’T, THE UNIQUE HORROR OF WATCHING A CHILD SHRINK AND DIE
Here is an abridged version of one doctor’s anonymous testimony, published in the BMJ under the heading: ‘How it feels to withdraw feeding from newborn babies’."
The voice on the other end of the phone describes a newborn baby and a lengthy list of unexpected congenital anomalies. I have a growing sense of dread as I listen.
The parents want ‘nothing done’ because they feel that these anomalies are not consistent with a basic human experience. I know that once decisions are made, life support will be withdrawn.
Assuming this baby survives, we will be unable to give feed, and the parents will not want us to use artificial means to do so.
Regrettably, my predictions are correct. I realise as I go to meet the parents that this will be the tenth child for whom I have cared after a decision has been made to forgo medically provided feeding.
A doctor has written a testimony published under the heading: ‘How it feels to withdraw feeding from newborn babies’
The mother fidgets in her chair, unable to make eye contact. She dabs at angry tears, stricken. In a soft voice the father begins to tell me about their life, their other children, and their dashed hopes for this child.
He speculates that the list of proposed surgeries and treatments are unfair and will leave his baby facing a future too full of uncertainty.
Like other parents in this predicament, they are now plagued with a terrible type of wishful thinking that they could never have imagined. They wish for their child to die quickly once the feeding and fluids are stopped.
They wish for pneumonia. They wish for no suffering. They wish for no visible changes to their precious baby.
Their wishes, however, are not consistent with my experience. Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was ten days.
Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues.
I try to make these matters clear from the outset so that these parents do not make a decision that they will come to regret. I try to prepare them for the coming collective agony that we will undoubtedly share, regardless of their certainty about their decision.
I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby.
I reflect on how sanitised this experience seems within the literature about making this decision.
As a doctor, I struggle with the emotional burden of accompanying the patient and his or her family through this experience, as much as with the philosophical details of it.
‘Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was ten days’
Debate at the front lines of healthcare about the morality of taking this decision has remained heated, regardless of what ethical and legal guidelines have to offer.
The parents come to feel that the disaster of their situation is intolerable; they can no longer bear witness to the slow demise of their child.
This increases the burden on the care-givers, without parents at the bedside to direct their child’s care.
Despite involvement from the clinical ethics and spiritual care services, the vacuum of direction leads to divisions within the care team.
It is draining to be the most responsible physician. Everyone is looking to me to preside over and support this process.
I am honest with the nurse when I say it is getting more and more difficult to make my legs walk me on to this unit as the days elapse, that examining the baby is an indescribable mixture of compassion, revulsion, and pain.
Some say withdrawing medically provided hydration and nutrition is akin to withdrawing any other form of life support. Maybe, but that is not how it feels. The one thing that helps me a little is the realisation that this process is necessarily difficult. It needs to be.
To acknowledge that a child’s prospects are so dire, so limited, that we will not or cannot provide artificial nutrition is self selecting for the rarity of the situations in which parents and care teams would ever consider it.
It’s been fifty years, since I was first confronted by issues of life in the womb, and of choice conflicting with traditional morality. It’s an old story, but very personal, and fraught with emotional triggers. Then, I was a student nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where Dr. Alan Guttmacher and Margaret Sanger were being hailed as super-heroes of Womankind. In a lecture presented to student nurses in our formative years, opinions were presented as fact. The class focused on birth control, under the banner of Women’s Health. A one-sided presentation of the history of Planned Parenthood took center stage. I knew, then, the class was skewed, avoiding the issue, and immorality of abortion, which, in reality, eventually raises its ugly head in an unbiased arena.
I was silent, asked no questions, although I was aware that what was being said was not the whole, unadulterated story. The heroine, Margaret Sanger, in truth, wrote prolifically, revealing the underpinning of her eugenic philosophy. Her own words promote a foundational agenda more akin to racial cleansing, than savior of womankind. Her involvement in the Negro Project and speeches to the Klu Klux Klan should have been red flags stripping her of any moral authority. She was, and, is no hero, to at least half our Nation. Yet, fifty years, and Sanger’s own words, have not deterred Planned Parenthood from canonizing her, and striving to re-write her actual history. Then, I didn’t know her history; I do now.
You can find Sanger’s writings online, as well as ample examples of her questionable associations and eugenic thought processes. I wish I knew all this years ago, for my experience of the lecture left me feeling that my inexperience and naiveté, made me vulnerable to propaganda. I was not prepared to confront the status quo, and those in authority, even at this level, in a teaching venue.
Well, it has been fifty years, and in reading our Alumnae News, spring 2012, an article entitled, “The Past- Planned Parenthood from the Beginning” brought me back to that day and my dilemma. What bothered me most about the recent, well-meaning article was the writer’s voice that seemed to me to assume moral superiority. There is a false compassion that plays to emotionalism and worse case scenarios, and I heard it in the tone of this piece. It, yet again, presented its cast of characters as pioneer heroines, and their cause as above reproach. Yet, there are many Mt. Sinai alumnae, and millions of people in this country, who, in a just righteousness, also seek the welfare of women, desire to protect the living, the home, and the foundational fabric of society as guardians of family and the individual, and who do not agree with this stance, and suppositions made here. They are ignored in this article, as they were in the lecture of years ago.
Motherhood plays poorly, when pregnancy is portrayed as an albatross hung about its neck. For a true dialog, and the Big Picture, the voice of the other side needs to be heard by student nurses and society as a whole, for the good of women and society. It is a necessary and rational voice, lifted to oppose, what it views as a pseudo-sophisticate, myopic view presented as progressive. This other valid voice addresses life issues compassionately, while being circumspect and prophetic, speaking for, and caring for, the good of the person and humanity. It, too, takes a moral stance that is unselfish, sometimes unpopular, and honors the wisdom of cultures and the sages of present and past ages. Dismissive attitudes do no justice to truth and learning. Student nurses, and society as a whole, deserve the whole truth. Our personal humanity hangs in the balance.
I, for one, want a voice, not a label. I’ll stand with those that reject a culture, in which truth doesn’t matter, that seeks the material over life, “whose morality is only a mask, which covers confusion and destruction”1and in doing so comes dangerously close to denying the Creator of life.
Our motto, “Vota Vita Nostra”, “We devote our lives,” speaks not only to our personal decision, but to there being One, and a cause, greater than ourselves, worthy of sacrifice, and our dedication, greater even than the Mt. Sinai from which we ventured forth, will never forget, and now are carrying into this day and this hour of history. Keep it real. Keep it honest. Listen for truth with the heart of a nurse.
© 2012 Joann Nelander
“Who do you say I am?”
Who do you say I am?
The jars lined the walls.
Each one marked:
A weight and words,
“Products of conception.”
Parts, just parts!
Parts, just parts?
Who do you say I am?
©2012 Joann Nelander
This painting is so consoling, I just have to share it again since Advent brings us closer and closer to the precious moment of our Savior’s birth. He comes to save Fallen Man, and with such a gentle hand.
“Virgin Mary Consoles Eve”
Crayon and pencil by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO
Copyright 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey