Don’t Worry, They’re Too Small to Care

What is it with Great Britain and hospital beds? Perhaps this is the same issue, but they decided against putting it in terms of money and beds.

Despite medical advances in prolonging life, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said the chances of an infant surviving after less than 22 weeks in the womb are very slim and that they often develop severe disabilities.

Better not try at all then. Along with those involved in severe car accidents and those who have a “slim chance” of surviving after 99.

In guidelines issued to help doctors and parents make difficult decisions about the care of extremely premature infants, the report recommended parents of babies born after 23 should be consulted and have the final say in whether intensive care is given to their baby.

Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? After 23 weeks, at least they’ll ask the parents before they withdraw care (read: kill). And, sure as shootin’, if a report like this calls a decision “difficult” they mean “don’t worry about it.”

“Natural instincts are to try to save all babies, even if the baby’s chances of survival are low,” said Professor Margaret Brazier who chaired the committee that produced the report.

“However, we don’t think it is always right to put a baby through the stress and pain of invasive treatment if the baby is unlikely to get better and death is inevitable.”

You had to know that this came out of academia. But seriously, couldn’t the professor have considered the implications of her words? Doesn’t anyone consider the implications of talk like this? She can’t even keep herself straight about what might happen without “invasive treatment”: either the baby is “unlikely to get better” or “death is inevitable.” I don’t know about you, but to me they don’t carry the same connotations. If death is inevitable, it’s a little more than “unlikely” that the baby will get better. Even more, who is this professor to say, based on her prognostications, who’s likely to get better and who will die? I guess it’s a little easier if we say “death is inevitable,” while hurrying it along into a little self-fulfilling prophecy.

Religious leaders in Britain welcomed the report saying it sets a clear distinction between interventions to cause death and decisions to withdraw or withhold treatment if it is thought to be futile.

“This reaffirms the validity of existing law prohibiting euthanasia, and upholds the vital and fundamental moral principle that the deliberate taking of innocent human life is always gravely wrong,” the Church of England House of Bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said in a joint statement.

Whatever this report does, it does not seem to me to uphold that “vital and fundamental moral principle.” Apparently the bishops and the professors were smoking together before they issued their reports and statements. What, I don’t know.

More circumspectly, I would not say that any artificial means of ventilating and circulating the blood of a dead body is wrong. True, it’s not worth performing futile measures to preserve a corpse. But these aren’t corpses! They’re infants. Not only that, the area around the word “artificial” has grown ever larger and will continue to grow larger as we consider ventilators “artificial.” We’ve already decided food and drink can be considered superfluous to a woman’s life, as long as the husband’s okay with it. And, as is usual with cases like this, ethics whisper and money screams. And, as is usual, we should not be surprised at the depths of the human capacity to rationalize murder.

Timotheos

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Don’t Worry, They’re Too Small to Care

  1. She said, “if the baby’s death is inevitible” and when you read what she says, that inevitibility exists even with treatment.

    Would I try absolutely everything, including surgeries, hooking up all kinds of machines if I knew the baby’s prognosis was bleaker than bleak?

    Most people would want to minimize suffering if death is inevitible, whether for babies or the elderly. That doesn’t make us murderers.

    I disagree in allowing money to determine who lives or dies and wealthy nations certainly can produce the resources to provide care to infants, even if their chances are slim.

    But using this in bleak circumstances seems to only prolong agony, and I think that’s also wrong. In these cases, the guidelines have it right and put this responsibility in the hands of the parents who God has placed responsibility for the child’s care.

    Every new bit of news is doesn’t indicate to me some grand desire to kill babies, but from some of your recent posts, it certainly appears that you believe that’s exactly what’s going on.

    I don’t.

  2. David said: “Most people would want to minimize suffering if death is inevitible, whether for babies or the elderly. That doesn’t make us murderers.”

    There is a difference between “minimizing suffering” and deliberately withholding life-preserving measures. Of course, once you’ve killed the person, their suffering is at 0. Euthanasia? Mission accomplished.

    He also said: “Every new bit of news is doesn’t indicate to me some grand desire to kill babies, but from some of your recent posts, it certainly appears that you believe that’s exactly what’s going on.

    I don’t.” First, you’re naive. Second, it’s not a “grand desire to kill babies” but a grand desire to redefine life and death so that they suit our particular emotivistic wills. The murder of infants is only one particular part of it. The reason I’m so sarcastic is that I don’t think these people even realize what’s so wrong with what they’re saying. They’ve truly got no idea why it might be wrong to withhold life-saving treatment from infants, even if they are really young.

    As I said in the post, if all you’re doing is circulating blood and pumping air in and out of a corpse, I’m not against withholding that. But can’t you see the almost imperceptible jump between that and not doing what is possible to save infants and give them a shot at life? We have gotten so far medically that at 24 weeks an infant has a relatively good shot at surviving, but one week earlier, nope, can’t save that one.

    Our culture is all about “sacrifice” when it comes to embryos, no matter what the chances. There is literally no hard evidence that embryonic stem cells will do anything to cure diseases. That doesn’t stop them from trying. But when it comes to infants born or unborn, go ahead and get rid of ’em. Do you not see the reversal that has taken place in our thinking?

    Tim

  3. Yes, setting an arbitrary time of 25 weeks where care is provided is equivalent in my mind to saying that we won’t provide care to anybody over age 85 and obviously it’s wrong. It’s even more wrong to do it on the basis of lack of money and in a wealthy nation such as Great Britain, to say that there aren’t enough beds to keep those pre-25 week babies alive is just plain wrong.

    You have me on all those things.

    If death is in fact inevitable and treatment likely to cause more harm and suffering, then perhaps no heroics except for comfort are in order.

    The arbiter of the decision is the dignity and care of that life and what we know to be the right and best thing to care for it.

    I would also add to this that nobody who couldn’t afford to stay on life support, who would otherwise be kept alive, should be denied life support on the basis of ability to pay. You may recall a case in Texas where the lack of money was used as a reason to remove a patient from life support. As a reason to remove life support, lack of money, is also wrong. I kind of hope we both agree on that at least.

    I am not as convinced as you are of the overall movement in regards to redefining life. However, I do keep an eye on those folks who support euthanasia –many of them use economics and other reasons to justify when to end a life. Some folks are too ready to play God. Yes I do worry what they would do to the disabled, etc. But I also draw the line, and it sounds like you do too, in regards to an infant born with horrendous disabilities that are inoperable and unfixable with our current technology. Give them every blessing and comfort possible, but don’t prolong agony, but when I say agony, I do mean that limited definition, and not simply birth defects or other conditions.

    By the way, I think you should support assistance to people who have children with these conditions so they don’t have to face the possibility of bankruptcy as a result of doing the right thing in trying to preserve the life of their newborn. It happens. We are a rich enough nation to not need to make people decide between money and life and we shouldn’t. No kid should die because of lack of money, health care, food or shelter and no family should lose everything trying to provide it to their own.

  4. “I am not as convinced as you are of the overall movement in regards to redefining life.” Keep your eyes open. But, notice, I do not think it’s a “conspiracy” in the sense of a bunch of people getting together and deciding to do this. If anything, it’s a silent cultural conspiracy tending, as all things do, toward chaos. I tend to think that it’s God’s grace that we have any cultural sense left at all.

    “By the way, I think you should support assistance to people who have children with these conditions so they don’t have to face the possibility of bankruptcy as a result of doing the right thing in trying to preserve the life of their newborn. It happens. We are a rich enough nation to not need to make people decide between money and life and we shouldn’t. No kid should die because of lack of money, health care, food or shelter and no family should lose everything trying to provide it to their own.”

    I don’t know what you mean. If you mean government-run programs, I think that’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse–although government programs sometimes work in spite of themselves. I think these things tend to be better accomplished by private organizations with governmental support. There certainly should be regulation and guidelines, but, generally, I think private organizations do the best job of helping people who need it.

    Thanks,
    Tim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s