Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Picking Your Battles

Fight Over Baby's Life Support Divides Ethicists

The short version: A very sick baby in an Austin hospital is being kept alive on life support by the choice of his mother.

What does his mother have to say about her position?

Emilio's mother, Catarina Gonzales, on the other hand, is fighting to keep her son on the ventilator, allowing him to die "naturally, the way God intended." - FTFA


I'm sorry, but keeping a child on life support is not "natural," and if you belive in Him, I would also doubt it's "the way God intended." (I reserve my right as an Agnostic to question God. I refer to God in the masculine, given that the mother is a Christian, a religion which believes God is male.)

The hospital wants to take the baby off the ventilator, which they are allowed to do under Texas law, "if medical experts deem [life support] medically inappropriate." It sounds pretty darn inappropriate in this case.

Full disclosure:

I was a very sick baby. Even now, at a-few-months-shy-of-25, you can still see the scars my surgeries, a series of open-heart procedures, left on my body. I was in and out of the hospital for over a year, my parents never quite sure I would make it. My heart stopped many times.

But I survived. I feel this makes me uniquely privileged to state my opinions on subjects that involve the life, or termination thereof, of sick offspring.

I was lucky. I survived the surgeries that fixed my incompletely-formed heart, and I grew stronger. I talked early and walked late.

However: if at any point in my mother's pregnancy with me, had my parents found out what was in store and decided that they weren't up to the task of caring for what could have been a perpetually sick infant, who may have died anyway, and who may have had no quality of life, had they made the decision to end the pregnancy...I woud be okay with that. I'm glad to be alive, but I would not begrudge them my death.

When I was ten years old, I had more surgery. Non-life threatening, but still extensive, and requiring an exhaustive convalesence. Seeing what my parents went through then, knowing that what I was going through was merely to fix an orthopaedic problem that was more serious in the long-term than the short, I can only imagine what they dealt with when I was an infant.

Reading articles like this one about Caterina and Emilio Gonzales, really makes me wonder what the mother is thinking. This isn't a child who will grow. This isn't a child who will learn and love and bring home crayon drawings to put on the refrigerator.

This child is sick, and will die - is dying - a slow, painful death.

I don't know why anyone would put themselves through that, let alone a baby they love.


Siobhan said...

As a mother I guess I am, what did you call it? Uniquely qualified? to answer this.

She is keeping her child on that ventilator because it is too hard to let her baby go. She knows full well that baby isn't going to grow or thrive but she can't just let her die...the way God intended.

The reason most people keep family members on a ventilator is not for that person, but for themselves. We cannot beat to let loved ones go and not be able to hug, hold, touch them. I would not be able to keep Cara alive for my own reasons, but that's because I don't believe in treating our family members worse than we treat our animals. It would kill me but sometimes you have to "let go and let God."

Allie said...

"What." indeed! I mean, what does she think will happen if she takes the baby off the vent? It will miraculously recover? Die in some way God didn't intend? That just makes no f'ing sense.