Skip to comments.U.S. Study Finds Doctors May Be Euthanizing Dying Children at Parentsí Request
Posted on 03/31/2010 1:04:23 PM PDT by topher
Wednesday March 31, 2010
U.S. Study Finds Doctors May Be Euthanizing Dying Children at Parents Request
By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
BOSTON, March 31, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A study published in the March edition of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that a few physicians may have killed children who were very sick by giving them fatal morphine doses, after the parents had requested euthanasia.
Dr. Joanne Wolfe, a palliative pain specialist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital in Boston, interviewed 141 parents of children who died of cancer in order to explore the parents' motivation in considering and enquiring about hastening their child's death.
The study found that 19 of the 141 parents, or 13 percent, said they had considered asking about ending their child's life, and 13 parents reported having discussed intentionally ending their child's life. Parents of five children said they had explicitly asked a clinician for medications to end the child's life, and parents of three said it had been carried out with an overdose of morphine.
Dr. Wolfe wrote that the objective of the study was "to estimate the frequency of hastening death discussions, describe current parental endorsement of hastening death and intensive symptom management, and explore whether children's pain influences these views in a sample of parents whose child died of cancer."
"With two US states now allowing legalized physician-assisted suicide," continued Dr. Wolfe, "these discussions may become more frequent. Attitudes toward hastening death in noninfant children with life-threatening conditions have seldom been described."
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that he is seriously concerned by the finding of the study that medical professionals may have been willing to break the law and cause the death of a child in response to the request of parents.
Dr. Wolfe observed that the child's experience of pain affects hastening death (HD) considerations by the parents, but many are not given adequate information about the legal options for pain relief, which can include sedating children into unconsciousness.
"Several studies indicate that both caregivers and physicians tend to confuse the unintended adverse effects of intensive symptom management with the intentional hastening of death. In our sample, the 3 families who reported intentionally hastening their child's death described doing so using morphine, which raises the question of whether they had misinterpreted the physicians' intentions. In fact, evidence indicates that opioids can be used safely at the end of life and that their effect on survival, if any, is negligible."
"Our results suggest that more than 1 of every 8 parents report considering HD during their child's illness, and they tended to do so if their child was in pain. In the context of an HD discussion, identifying sources of suffering and clearly explaining effective and legal options, including proportionately intensive symptom management, may ease parents' considerations of hastening their child's death," the report concluded.
The full text of the study, titled "Considerations About Hastening Death Among Parents of Children Who Die of Cancer" is available here.
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With cancer patients, they may be in such pain that they request more and more morphine, which result in reduced respirations.
At some point, the patient stops breathing because of toxic morphine levels.
I hope I’m never in a position to even consider having that kind of conversation
This is a common thing in the elderly sick patients. They are struggling to breathe, in pain, and a doc gives the maximum dose of morphine, with all knowing that it might just slow / stop the limbic brain. Happens ALL the time. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and no one is killing deliberately.
In terms of parents and minors, it’s tricky. You have a terminally ill child, in lots of pain, and you want to let the child be without pain. At some point you come close to the “how much is too much” question, and we are speaking of children who have vastly differing metabolisms NOT perfectly related to weight.
This is not something to fight because I’d rather allow families to receive the pain relief the children need. I do not want morphine to be strictly regulated to the point where someone’s child dies in agony. Sorry. I’d rather have the child’s pain determine the dose. Especially if multiple doctors agree that there is little hope left.
I imagine this is a common dilemna in a hospice with cancer patients. The staff must monitor the vital signs, so when respirations drop below a certain point, and the patient is conscious and in a great deal of pain, the family might put pressure to keep administering more and more pain medication.
Some nurses have felt guilty about this, as they have felt they have killed the patient...
The family should neve push such a button if the patient is unconscious, and the healthcare facility must warn family not to do this.
Agreed that it is an imperfect world. Mercy killing is still killing.
The line that is a thin one is the one where the patient is on the border of death, and just one more dose of pain medication pushes the patient over the line.
But I believe the article is addressing the issue of a terminally ill child, and requesting that the child be killed outright.
One of the first John Wayne movies addresses this (the movie Stagecoach). At the end of the movie, John Carradine is about to "shoot a woman" so the Indians do not get her. Just as he is about to shoot her, there is the sound of a Calvary bugle.
The point being is that cancer can go into remission.
I think it is very common is hospice, my FIL died from brain cancer and his last couple day were just a morphine induced coma and he finally passed. My friend just went through the same thing, it took her about 10 days to get to the morphine stage - kept her pain free and no seizures - after 2 days on solid morphine she passed.
There was NO reason for either of them to suffer, and neither staff or family at either Hospice inclined they wanted to “end it quickly” - but it was understood that the morphine would supress their breathing and they would just pass. Thank God they did and Thank God for the care they received.
Brain cancer sucks.
As a nurse I have seen a high dosage of Morphine ordered with the intent of killing .
I and others have refused to administer it..
What this report will lead to is a call to legalize it because it is already common practice
Oh, of course I am not supporting murdering a child!
I just wouldn’t like pressure on the medical community to restrain from palliative pain relief just because some monsters might kill their ill children deliberately.
I would not let someone die in agony begging for more pain meds.
Give them all they desire.
If the pain medication shortens their life by a few days then so be it.
So does liver cancer. I doubt if there are any “good cancers”. My hubby died just 2 months after being told he had this kind of cancer.
Anyone who works in medicine long enough knows the reality of it.
There are some patients who have suffered long and hard. Damned hard. Their suffering seems almost barbaric, and...they have had enough. In their heart, they know.
I recently had a friend, a young woman with terrible, terrible cancer who suffered horribly. Eventually, she said to one of her closest friends “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to. But I just can’t stay. I can’t stay anymore.”
She had fought long and courageously, and for her, she just couldn’t go on. She was a medical professional, loved and respected by everyone who knew her. I am not saying she succumbed in this fashion. I am describing her to illustrate the point that many suffering people come to. Some get there quickly. Some fight with an animal ferocity to live, but still get there. Some never get to that mindset.
Agh. Weeping as I write this.
But I have been in medicine long enough to know that giving people more morphine than is conducive to continued respiration is, in certain circumstances, an act of great compassion. It often happens without fanfare, with the full consent of all involved including the patient. They just cannot bear the pain any longer, their will to live simply reduced to a dry husk by the 24x7 struggle. The shell of desire to live sometimes remains, but when the patient looks inside, they see they have used all their resources and energy. They have nothing left to fight with, and it has always seemed to me to be a point in their lives when, they cannot deceive themselves any longer. They can deceive themselves about every other thing in their lives, their families, their friends, their dreams, their job, their aspirations and their accomplishments.
But there comes a time for many of them when they look inside, and that is one part of them that is bare, and they apparently cannot deceive themselves about it.
I have had people say to me variations on “Yes. I know where this is going. I know. But my family and friends haven’t got there yet, so I am going to be strong for them.”
I’ve met a good number of people who have made their peace when they get there and look into that empty shell. Not everyone, mind you. But many.
I am sorry for your loss. And you are correct. There ARE doctors who should NOT be practicing.
There is an old saying: “50% of the doctors graduate in the lower half of their class.”
That happened to my father. He was in horrific pain from cancer, and the doctors refused to increase his pain meds because it would depress his ability to breathe and he would die.
He was never given a choice.
He died anyway.
I would not blame anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. I understand.
I’m so sorry. A similar thing happened to my uncle about 11 years ago, liver and pancreatic cancer that went undiagnosed.
Mama, My FIL died in June 2006 and my MIL is just now fully realizing her loss. I’m probably not explaining this well - but she told me intellectually knows he is gone but emotionally she is just now feeling the full brunt. It’s been very emotional for her, and she is not an emotional person - so it’s been all that much harder to watch. My prayers are with you, you have lost so much but life is still to be lived. Peace Mama.
God has really blessed me by letting me meet a man who is very important to me. He lost his wife to cancer several years before my hubby died. We have so much in common-faith, values, are both nuts, etc. And he is a conservative!
I stay busy with my genealogy stuff and have really enjoyed doing that. I found a person who married into my family many years ago. I was looking for her ancestors and went back to about 410 and King Clovis, the Riparian of Cologne. I have no idea if there are any descendants living but I thought they might like to have this one day, if there are. Of course, there are so many errors in genealogy sites so I try to find sites which verify my info. Census data helps a lot. Since I have this data, they will have to do the verification. That is only fair!
Freepmail wagglebee to subscribe or unsubscribe from the moral absolutes ping list.
I’m so glad to hear how you are doing well. We had a period of a 2 years where we lost my FIL, 3 grandmothers, uncles, aunts, 2 young cousins, 2 friends in a gun related crime - nowhere near as many as you, but it made me weary of answering the phone.
The Lord does work in wonderful ways, putting people in your life that make all the difference. I’ve met so many people through my activism in politics the past 3 years that have been so affirming, because we are so much alike. I value all my relationships more than I did years ago...life’s lesson.
YOur geneology research sounds very interesting, which site did you use? I need to get lots of dates and names down somewhere but don’t know where to start.
It's not unusual for it to be years before it really sinks in. It happened to my mother when my father died, and it happened with me after they each died. For some reason, after I thought I had gotten over it, something triggered the memories and brought it all back. Christmas was really hard a couple years because of that for no reason that I could put my finger on.
I hope they don’t make too much out of this. It’s one of those things that should just be kept quiet and let the poor families have privacy. I doubt there is abuse, so why dig into it.
I try not to use FamilySearch which is the LDS site because of the errors there. I just read a report today or yesterday which was talking about all of the mistakes on that site. I am not back far enough to get to the countries of origin so I think I will have to update my ancestry.com to get the foreign countries. So far, I have ancestors in England, France, Wales, Scotland, Russia, Ireland with a few others tossed in for good measure.
It is a fascinating hobby especially when I get back to the Middle Ages and the plagues, kings, etc. It brings to life what those people went through with all of the deaths and in some cases, whole towns died of the plague. Sometimes there were no one left to bury the dead. I can not imagine living through something like that.
Try it. Don't expect miracles to happen overnight. It may take a while but like I did for my friend, he gave me some names and in about 2 hours, I found data which took the family back to the mid 1500’s. I have tried to find verification info as much as possible. When I first started, I just entered the data and did not add where it came from. Big mistake. His other trees are causing me lots of headaches because I can not find info on the members of the family. It is going to take time for those. But that is ok. I have plenty of time.
One feature of ancestry.com is finding well known people who are related to yours. Of course, I take a lot of that with a grain of salt since some dates are way off base. Children are born after parents and in some cases they are off hundreds of years. But in a lot of cases, I find the right info and if someone else has done that research, use it as a starting point. I then verify what I can from other sources.
Good luck. You just might find it very addictive.
I and my family don’t fear death...It’s a journey to a better place. Those who demand someone suffer in deep agony and excruciating pain, as it somehow glorifies God, have a different version of God’s love than I do.
Probably the inspiration for the last scene in the horror movie The Mist.
You know what really gets to me is my daughter’s death. One example. I had to go to the ER about 10 days ago. When the nurse came into the room, I just knew I knew her from somewhere. I asked her if she had been my daughter’s nurse when she was there so many times. She said she was and then asked how she was doing. When I told her about her death, she was shocked. Think it bothered her more than me at that time. I know that she influenced so many over her lifetime. I knew if I could survive her death, then any others would be much easier. Still, things I see or read about makes me want to tell her.
Actually intending to kill the child, is a different matter altogether.
Now if that patient had a living will, and it was acceptable to "kill the patient" by "overdose", then what you are saying could be done.
But, in my opinion, is what that gets down to.
For drugs like morphine, they now have "Patient Controlled Analgesics" (PCA), where the patient presses a button to administer a dose.
If someone else presses that button, they could be criminally charged. They basically could be prosecuted to administering morphine to someone.
tough call for me to make for others whom I respect.
My own wishes should the need arise is a one way boat ride...or something similar.
The patient can administer doses to themselves. There are mechanisms so that they do not overdose themselves.
And if the patient is asleep, then the patient is unable to "press the button".
One would have to take this issue up with the AMA, FDA, and the DEA.
Just when I think it can hardly get worse, it gets worse. Intellectually I know it can and most likely will get much, much worse (before it gets better which I am firmly convinced will happen), it’s hard to read some of this stuff.
Once it’s okay to kill some people, when they are “almost” dead anyway (or unwanted, helpless, can’t speak for themselves, etc), the line of who it’s okay to kill and when, gets looser and looser and looser.
My Dad didn’t want to die. He wanted to be out of pain. I kept thinking the whole time that here we are, with modern medicine and all, and it is still difficult, at times, to manage pain successfully.
What medicine has done today is allow the patient to medicate themselves by "pressing a button". The dose they receive of morphine is a safe dose, and even if the patient presses the button again and again, it will only dispense medications to a "prescribed" schedule and a "prescribed" dose.
The article specifically says that there are parents who wish to directly end the children's lives...
I'm pretty sure we're in agreement here. I was responding to Yaelle, who was concerned about pain management for a dying child. There's no moral offense in giving as much morphine as needed to stop the pain, even if it predictably will interfere with respiration and shorten life.
If the doctors or the parents had the suppression of respiration and thus the suppression of the child's life as their as their direct intention --- then that is murder.
Good info, thanks so much! I’m copying and pasting your reply for reference. I Sent you a private message.
So true. It’s hard to watch someone go through and it’s hard to feel it so keenly. After spending the better part of 50 years with someone (in my MIL’s case) I can’t imagine the loss.
Those morphine pumps are NICE.
I was on one after my last c-section and it managed the pain better than anything else I had had previously.
The thing about pain, is that it takes a lot more to knock it down than to keep it down. The idea is to keep it under control than to let it get bad and have to do a lot more medication.
I had read somewhere that as you experience pain, the body secretes some substance that actually sensitizes the nerves to the pain, so that as you try to tough it out, the pain actually hurts worse because of biochemical reasons.
So pain killers work in two ways, one being numbing the pain, but the other is avoiding this process that over sensitizes the nerves to the actual amount of pain.
What if the allowed dose does not reduce the pain?
I don’t understand why it matter if someone dies ten hours early in no pain versus ten hours later in tremendous pain.
I’ve now seen enough friends and relatives die that I see no beauty or grace in the suffering that comes at the end.
Finally, a patient is put opioids [such as morphine].
However, patients can build up a tolerance to such drugs.
It basically gets down to: the medication is not working, and you would have to kill the person outright. This is none as murder.