Tuesday 31 January 2012

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. Our first child was prematurely born in about the 28th week of pregnancy...he was healthy except that he needed oxygen at first BUT we were warned it could be a roller coaster ride! We were so happy and despite the initial shock, we had so many plans for this wonderful gift from God. Our son lived for 3 weeks since a problem arose and he had to have surgery but everything was done to save him. We loved him, fed him, held him but our dream was not to be...God had other plans! We baptized him Matthew (Gift of God) and also had a priest confirm him. We still have these memories in our hearts and his spirit lives on in our lives..."There's a special Angel in Heaven that is a part of me.
    It is not where I wanted him but where God wanted him to be."

    Thanks for writing this article Victor!


  2. Thank you Doreen for taking the time to share with us your heart-breaking story. As you say, God must have really wanted an extra Angel in Heaven. We never understand why such events happen to us and it takes a special person to retain their Faith in such circumstances. You are an example to many Doreen.

    I pray for you and your family and ask you to ask Matthew to pray for me.

    God bless.

  3. Our experience with Matthew's story here on earth has touched the hearts of many and I believe even his short life here was indeed long enough to make him very special and that such was God's plan. Thanks for your prayers and of course I will ask Matthew to pray for you as I do too.


  4. Thank you Doreen for your and Matthew's prayers.

    God bless you and your family.

  5. Very wise Father Ignatius. Such a powerful story and post. Thank you!

  6. Victor,

    I wonder if this was a difficult story to write. It is such an emotive issue. Your post is so well structured, putting all the various opinions before us concisely.

    Shortly before our son was born (while in the delivery room), I was asked if I wanted the doctors to try and save his life. We knew he had a problem (not much lung tissue). If nothing was done, our child was sure to die as soon as he was born. I was shocked. I'd assumed the doctors would do everything possible to save our child. I began to worry they would just let him die. As it was, after I'd given the doctors permission to intervene, they certainly worked very hard to try and save his life. I have no complaints at all. In the end we had to accept that God did not intend Thomas to live.

    Yes, when a parent is asked if they want medical intervention, of course they are going to react with their instinct of love and hope. They are not going to assess the situation using facts and medical knowledge. How could a parent do that? That was why I was so shocked when I was asked what I wanted for my child. What medical problems would Thomas have had to live with if he'd survived? I don't know.

    God intervening? I truly believed God intervened and took Thomas before we got to the stage of having to turn off his life support system. He died of heart failure due to unknown causes. Even an autopsy refused to reveal any clues. The doctors were baffled. But I am not. God knew how worried I was: I might have to make a decision about the exact moment Thomas' life should come to an end. So He took him before it came to that.

    Thomas wasn't premature but even so, your story was relevant to our situation.

    Thank you for this post, Victor. It is certainly very thought provoking and allows us to express our own feelings.

  7. Victor I so love this story. You have brought calm to a tense subject. I so agree with you...Hugs

  8. Hello Beautiful Whisper, Sue and Bernie,

    Thank you for taking the time to write in. This is a subject i feel strongly about.

    Thank you Sue for sharing your story with our readers. As you say, God intervened, for His own purpose and, as in Doreen's story above, He wanted yet another Angel in Heaven. Please Sue ask thomas to pray for me - because God listens to Angels.

    Dear readers, Sue has written a book about Thomas entitled "Grief, Love and Hope". It is well worth reading. You can download it FREE from here: http://www.sueelviswrites.com/p/grief-love-and-hope_12.html

    Thank you Sue.

    God bless you Beautiful Whispers, Sue and Bernie.

  9. Thank you Cathy, Richard and Momto8 for writing in. I much appreciate and I'm grateful for your comments.

    God bless.

  10. Thank you, Victor for recommending my book. And of course, I shall ask Thomas to pray for you. I will too!

  11. Thanx Sue. Prayers for you and yours.

    God bless.

  12. Very thought provoking story. I may have mentioned this to you before, but I have two friends who had premature babies only a few months apart, both at 24 weeks. Both babies had a desperate fight for life, and both ended up with no permanent impairments. God can do amazing things.

  13. Thank you Sarah for such an amazing and lovely story. Yes, God does work miracles. Praise Him.

    God bless.



God bless you.