Wednesday 19 June 2019

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. Choices.
    A most difficult question, one that was never asked a few generations ago as the choice was not available.

    Choices in many aspects of life today are a blessing, but they also complicate life. Women today have a choice to be a doctor, lawyer, anything where in days past they were generally mothers and homemakers. In past there were many women miserable because of the lack of a there are many women miserable because they have to make a choice of career or a powerful biological pull, those that chose both often find they do neither to complete fulfillment.

    Choices, a dilemma that is new to so much in today's world.

    God gave us skills, but he also gave us free will to use those skills. Do we really know what he wants in every case? It is a dilemma of choice we have brought on ourselves and God has left it up to us to figure out in a world that is far from black and white on so many issues.

    When do we know what God would want, and when are we deciding to play God? Choices.

    1. 'Choices'? Choosing to TAKE a LIFE is NEVER 'right' -- whether or not that choice is made at the beginning, or at the end of life! I was 'premature' & nearly died after I was born because I was unable to 'thrive'. When doctors had given up on me; my maternal Grandmother took me in, and fed me a 'goat's milk formula' that she had learned from Indigenous women she'd met while working as a cook, in a Logging Camp. With every bottle she gave me, she prayed a Rosary. So ... Mother Mary and my grandmother saved my life! The second child my mother gave birth to (a girl, born 'full-term'), was born with severe 'spinabifida', and was left to die, all alone! It took her 3 days to finally 'starve' to death! WHY? Because her medical care would be "too costly" for my 'poor' parents!! Afterward, the Hospital just, 'trashed' her little body! My parents had to make that horrible decision; and suffered for it for the rest of their lives; though, they went on to have 7 more children! 'Choices' have consequences.

    2. Yes, they do, choices complicate our lives everyday. Not sure why you choose to make assumptions on my position about many difficult choices. My world is not black and white. I do not know the answer to difficult choices, nor do I claim that I do. Life is so complicated, I try my best to make correct choices and let God sort it out.

    3. This is my last response on this post as I suspect you have preconceived interpretation of my position, and I don't want to argue about positions I do not have. I am pleased that choices were made to give you life.

    4. Hi Joeh and Suzanne,

      Something has gone wrong with my computer. I am typing here not knowing whether my response will show up or not. So here goes:

      Joeh - You are right. There are too manyu choices for us to make these days; whether it is a choice of careers, or staying at home looking after the family or what kind of toothpaste we buy. Too many choices lead to confusion and, often, wrong decisions.

      You are also right that God gave us free will, intelligence (some less than others), and the skills to acquire knowledge and use it to the benefit of others. I accept that some use their skills and knowledge to work against others - that is their free will, their choice, and in my view it is wrong.

      Having been given skills and knowledge to help each other in this world, I believe, that this ability should be used whenever possible to save a life, not destroy it or let it perish. This applies whether the life is at the beginning (birth) or at the end when someone is nearing death. I find it difficult to accept euthanasia and mercy killing and to be honest, I cannot get my head round letting someone die because they are suffering too much. Like you, I do not have an answer to these problems; however, I feel I cannot play God and allow someone to die; or be party to someone's death because of their illness or disability.

      Suzanne - Thank you for sharing your story with us. I know it must have been very painful for you to write what you said here. I agree that all life is sacred and we should try our best to p[reserve life where we can.

      Thank you both for taking the time to write in. I appreciate and am grateful for your views since we learn form each other - especially on difficult matters as this one.

      God bless you and your families.

  2. I'm with Father Ignatius . . .
    Blessings, Victor!

  3. There are lots of choices these days and I respect whatever choice people make. It is their life and they have to live with whatever decision they make.

    1. Agreed, Bill. Sadly, sometimes people make the wrong choices which affect other people more than they affect them.

      God bless you my friend.

  4. What a heart-wrenching post. And Suzanne's testimony! Indeed, who do we think we are, trying to play God? Talk about the ultimate ego trip! I can't help but wonder who can continue to face themselves in the mirror.

    1. That's the problem with making a decision, Mevely. Often, our decisions, whether right or wrong, affect other people rather than us. It is in effect playing God with our decisions.

      God bless you always.

  5. This is an interesting post, it’s very thought provoking! Thank you for sharing it.

    Wishing you all the best!

  6. Thought-provoking as always, Victor.

  7. The question, where 'enough' becomes 'too much' medical treatment is not an easy one. Putting it mildly.

    Catechism, 2278, says that ending burdensome, dangerous, or extraordinary medical treatments - or ones that are "disproportionate to the expected outcome" - can be okay. That part also discusses how precious life is.

    This topic is a bit personal for me, since I was born with a disability - several, it turns out - which let me experience more - inconveniences?? - than many.

    The obvious physical glitch(es) prevented me from becoming a tap dancer or track star - - - which isn't the same sort of restrictions that many folks experience, of course.

    Easy answers? I don't think that's an option.

    1. As you say, Brian, it is very difficult to decide what to do when the situation is a live real one and we have to decide sometimes against the clock.

      God bless you my friend. Thank you for your support of my writings.

  8. While in the womb, my daughter was diagnosed with a brain cyst that most likely would have lead to severe brain malformation. The neonatologist recommended terminating the pregnancy(AKA kill our daughter). We refused...last month, she graduated at the top of her batch in eighth grade. God is good.... he always has a loving plan for all of us.

    1. Thank you so much Peter for your courage to tell us your story here. It is stories like yours that re-affirm our belief that all life is sacred and that as best we can we should do our best to save life. Congratulations on your daughter's graduation. We wish her well as also you and your family. Our thanx once more for your visit here and for sharing your miracle story.

      God bless you all. We hope to see you here again soon.

  9. Father Ignatius is a wise man!

    1. Indeed he is. Thank you Happyone.

      God bless you.



God bless you.