Monday, 7 March 2011

Let him die.

Father Ignatius was a member of the Doctors and Patients Consultative Committee at the local Hospital.

The Chairman of the Meeting welcomed all present and said:

“Thank you for attending this Meeting which we have arranged to discuss a matter on which the Hospital Board has asked for our views. Over the past few months there have been a number of premature births in this hospital and, as you would imagine, it has proved a very difficult and emotive issue for both the medical staff and parents to deal with.

“Let me introduce Doctor Farmington who will address us for a few minutes on the subject in question.”

The doctor stood up and explained about instances when babies are born pre-maturely, some as early as twenty three weeks into pregnancy. He explained that despite medical advancements and efforts made to save the infant, in the majority of cases, those who survived, had severe physical and mental disabilities throughout life.

These disabilities, sometimes painful, resulted in the child leading a very difficult existence dependent on others and on constant medical attention, with no hope of ever being cured to lead a normal life.

The doctor also explained that often, the very intervention by medical staff to save the baby, created medical risks which would adversely affect the infant in later life; for example brain damage, infection and so on.

The dilemma facing the medical profession was whether it would be more humane to let such premature babies just pass away peacefully rather than condemn them to a difficult and often miserable life.

The doctor was followed by a Senior Social Worker who went on to add that in a large number of cases, where the baby was saved despite the severe disabilities, the strain on the family was such that marriages frequently ended in divorce causing further pain and heartache to everyone involved. Furthermore, in many cases any other children in the family suffered too because of the extra attention and resources afforded to the disabled child by the parents. Often one or both parents had to give up work to look after the disabled child putting further pressure on the families’ finances.

The debate went on as to the limited financial resources available by families and the State to assist in such cases.

One or two parents at the meeting maintained that disabled children are well-loved by their parents and are central to their families despite their disabilities. They talked about the sanctity of life and how they, as parents, had the right to decide on medical intervention and not the medics or anyone else.

“You’re very quiet Father,” said the Chairman of the Meeting, “Although I might guess on your views …”

A few people laughed.

“By guessing my views, you may well save me the agony of having to decide on this …” replied Father Ignatius.

The Meeting fell silent.

“I fully appreciate the difficult decisions that have to be made by all concerned in such cases as premature births …” continued the priest.

“It is true of course that where the medics intervene, using their great skills, the results more often than not are a disabled child unable to fend for himself throughout what could be a long life.

“As we’ve heard, this puts a great strain on all concerned and marriages often break-up as a result inflicting further pain on the whole family.

“Understandably, the parents in such cases want everything possible to be done to save the child, and they cling to faint hope that all will turn out well. This is Faith indeed, albeit in reality, as we’ve heard, in most cases it is misplaced Faith since the surviving child is permanently and severely disabled.

“Yet, we must remember, that in these traumatic few moments when a decision has to be made, the parents are acting without any medical knowledge or facts whatsoever, and they base their decisions to save the child on pure loving instincts.

“Faced on the one hand with definite medical and statistical evidence of the outcomes of intervention, and on the other hand on parental love, hope and faith … how are we as a society to decide on this terrible dilemma?

“Who are we, I ask, to play God and decide to condemn a human being to a life of misery for themselves and those around them?

“If a child is born pre-maturely, extremely so in some cases, is this not a sign that the mother's body has rejected it because there is something wrong with it? By intervening are we not interfering with the natural course of event?”

The doctor and the Social Worker smiled sensing the argument going in their favor. Father Ignatius stopped for a second or two as he often did to focus peoples’ attention.

“Let me invite you to consider something else,” he continued.

“There are instances where babies are born after their full pregnancy term, yet, they are born with severe difficulties; like a hole in the heart for example …

“What do the medics do then? Do they reject them as faulty and let them die?

“Or do they do their utmost to help these young lives who sometimes, they too, grow up with disabilities?

“So I ask myself, what is the difference between a child born pre-maturely and another born after its full term? Why should one benefit from the skills and expertise of the doctors and not the other?

“Our skills, whatever they are, are God-given. We’ve done nothing by ourselves to achieve what we achieve.

“A skilled doctor for instance owes his skills and aptitude to assimilate and use knowledge to a Higher Being. This applies to all of us.

“And as such we owe that Higher Being, God, a duty to use our skills, whatever they are, for the benefit of humanity.

“Rather than ask whether the doctors should intervene in the case of pre-mature babies, why don’t we ask God to intervene? Don’t we trust Him enough?

“My views, Mr Chairman, if you’ve guessed them correctly … are that the doctors should do their best with the skills and expertise at their disposal to help these young lives … and then leave it to God to intervene as to the quality and length of life which transpires as a result of their efforts.”


  1. My son was born 2 1/2 months premature. He was in the neonatal ward, in an isolate for 2 1/2 months till he reached almost 5 pounds, then was transferred to the nursery where he remained another 2 weeks until we were able to bring him home. During the time in neonatal care we were only allowed to touch him through the circles cut into the isolate which had glove like attachments , that way germs, ect. would not be compounded with the many other issues that were going on...So many memories and so much comes to mind, but this is not the time.

    Anyway, our son is now 37, 6'3", married with children of his own. A blessing to be sure.

    Thank you for this post.

  2. What a lovely story Daily Grace. Thank you for sharing it with us. Doctors and all of us should do what we can to help save pre-mature babies ... and to trust God in the process.

    God bless.

  3. I just got finished signing a petition for Baby Joseph and then read this story. Well said, Victor, and I agree with your comment above.

    DG's story is a wonderful witness to God's love and care for the littlest ones :)

    God bless you, Victor!

  4. Thanx Mary for your comments. I'm about to visit your Blog.

    God bless.

  5. My daughter delivered a son at 23weeks,and named him Matteo. He lived 15days, to Christmas eve,then he passed on to Glory.The grief still returns at times.It devestated my daughter.
    I was living in another state and unable to travel back to visit. She told me the staff didn't care properly for him??
    In medical circles staff has a duty of care for everyone. There are not suppose to be exceptions. Your story is very sad..
    Who can play God?? And miracles do happen. Bless you.

  6. Bravo Victor, well said. Sometimes it is just a little common sense wisdom that stops people in their tracks. Let us celebrate all life today.

  7. Victor,
    This is a much needed story because it happens more often than we may realize. Daily Grace and Crystal Mary's stories are a painful but beautiful witness to the gift of life. All of us, put perhaps the medical profession need to heed Fr. I.'s words and not play God but trust Him instead.
    Thanks for sharing this and thanks to Daily Grace and Crystal Mary as well.
    God bless.

  8. Dear Crystal,

    I am so sorry to hear the story of your Grandson. I am praying for him and your whole family too. I agree that medics should try their best to help everyone because miracles do happen.

    Hi Andie,

    Thanx for writing in. It's sad, and difficult, when medics have to make decisions of life and death.

    Hello Karrinan,

    It's those vital few moments after birth where a decision has to be made. I believe we should try to save in all circumstances and trust in God to do the rest.

    God bless you all.

  9. A great story of Father Ignatius' wisdom, and timely with regard to little baby Joseph. What many people do not want to see is that God gives them a mission when He gives them a baby that needs extra care. That mission lasts for as long as the baby lives or until the parents die. The mission is a unique witness to God's love to every person they meet. Trust in God, Who never sends us on a mission without the means to fulfill it. That is the hardest lesson. We have to stop looking at human beings in terms of dollars and cents and see them as the precious persons they are.

  10. Thanx Barb. Children are indeed a gift from God, and He does not give rejects.

    God bless.

  11. This was a very thought provoking post. I like the comparison of a full-term baby with a life-threatening condition. Why shouldn't every child have an opportunity for life? Another consideration: with each passing year medical technology advances, and babies who before would have had no chance now can survive. It was only by trying and trying again that doctors learned how to save younger babies. I have two friends who delivered extremely premature babies just about a month apart. One baby was just under 24 weeks, and the other was 25 weeks. Both boys are happy and healthy 3-year-olds, and one of them has no impairments whatsoever! His parents were warned that he would suffer all sorts of maladies, including probable blindness, but he is perfectly healthy. I credit God with both of these miracles, but I'm also thankful for the knowledge and expertise he's given to doctors.

  12. Thank you Sarah for your comments. The story about the two children you mention proves that God does intervene and does save many times over.

    God bless.

  13. This is one of your best blogs yet, Victor. So full of human nature, yet God prevails.

    My child was not a premature baby, yet at three weeks she was care-flighted to have emergency intervention to save her life.

    While the helicopter was in the air, Pastors and family gathered at Children's Medical Center in Dallas to pray for the surgeons and my daughter. She had a 1% chance of surviving the surgery, and if she did survive, her chances of coming of out of surgery without complications were 2%.

    We believed she would be fine. God and the surgeons prevailed. Amen!

    God does not give up on anyone.

  14. What a lovely story Joey. Thank you for sharing it with us. I'm so pleased that your daughter is fine.

    Praise the Lord.

    May God bless you and your family always.



God bless you.

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