Tag Archives: birth defects

Update to a tragic story

A brief update to this post.

They’ve locked the website that had her journal entries regarding her child’s medical condition, so that link no longer works.

I think everything I talked about, no matter what the true situation with this mother allegedly trying to suffocate her child, is important is view of our developing medical technology and its ethical application to the suffering and dying.

However, none of it may be applicable in this case.

A possible theory is that the mother has Munchausen’s by proxy. The website I’ve linked to here may not be the best presentation of the “disease,” but it’ll give you the gist.

I felt a certain compassion when I thought the mother may have been attempting euthanasia out of desperation to end the suffering of her baby. But to suppose for a moment that it is Munchausen’s, that the baby may never have been ill or had any birth defects in the first place… unthinkable.

I think of the times when I have accidentally hurt my child… I think the worst one was when my oldest daughter was about one, in my haste I accidentally caught a bit of her belly when I was zipping her footie jammies. There was the tiniest little cut, and she wailed for about three minutes, but the guilt went on for days, until the little owie had healed and went away. Okay, that’s not true, I still feel a little guilty. But I never made that mistake again.

Even having to say no to my child — when we can’t go to the park, when it’s too close to dinner to have another cookie, when I have to finish the dishes and I can’t read a book right now — and seeing them be genuinely sad as a result is difficult for me.

I cannot even fathom hurting a child ON PURPOSE. Your OWN child. Causing your perfectly healthy child to suffer.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to find any compassion on this one.

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There Are Things Worse Than Death

Sometimes the news gives you a story that you just can’t shake.

A woman accused of trying to suffocate her 11 month old.

Not your run of the mill child abuser, though. A loving mother who has cared for her child, born with severe physical defects that she can never hope to recover from. A devoted parent who has had to watch her child suffer her entire life, with no end in sight to the suffering.

Not just suffer, but have to be resuscitated over and over again.

To me this is the deciding factor. This baby’s body has been trying to die. It is done. But our ability to perform medical miracles keeps the poor soul alive to continue its agony.

Why can we not learn to use our skills wisely? Why have we not established a really good process for determining the situations when it is an imperative of humaneness to just let a person go when it is obvious that death would be the best thing?

I’m not talking about euthanasia here, which is what it sounds like this mother was allegedly attempting, perhaps after a mental breakdown. Although I do think there are extremely rare occasions that might call for euthanasia, (I approve of Oregon’s Right to Die Law), I think in this circumstance a more appropriate concept is Do Not Resuscitate.

From what I’ve heard it is even difficult for an old person to have their DNR instructions respected.

There are things worse than death.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of our amazing techniques to bring someone back from the brink of death. Had this baby been in a car accident, obviously any extreme measures would be most welcome to keep her alive long enough for her body to heal and regain function.

But this baby’s body is not going to heal. Her brain stem will never grow. It will never function properly, according to the doctors’ own diagnosis. And yet they perpetuate this body’s life.

People comment that it is up to God, not us, to take a body. But God HAS BEEN trying to take her body. I am not saying that our medical abilities exceed the power of God, but if you believe in prayer, then aren’t actions a very concrete expression of our will, what we wish to see happening? Are we very naively asking for a person’s life to continue, and perhaps God is “allowing” our prayer to be answered, the way God “allows” all sorts of horrible things like murder, rape, torture. “Allowing” us to exercise our free will and then deal with the consequences later.

And if found guilty, this mother will have to deal with the consequences of what she’s done, legally and otherwise. I would never attempt to condone or make excuses for her alleged actions, but I also believe that the way a person has lived counts for something. There is ample evidence that she has been a devoted mother to both this baby and her 3 year old son, including this online website that she has maintained. It appears that she herself has suffered through a situation that few of us could handle and come out the other side with our sanity intact.

I can’t help but wonder, in the event that this crime really was committed, how her community might also be held responsible: was anyone making sure she got enough sleep, enough to eat? Was anyone making sure she didn’t need some mental health care? Is the medical establishment in any way responsible for having developed the ability to diagnose permanent defects, having developed procedures for keeping humans alive when their bodies are failing, but then refusing to resolve these two aspects so that families do not get caught in a nightmare of suffering?

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