Fundamentalist Christian Parents Are Now Torturing Their Kids By Not Taking Them Off Life Support

We’ve seen plenty of examples in America of faith-healing parents who refuse to take their children to the hospital because they think their prayers will fix the problems instead.

It’s awful, it’s unthinkable that these parents don’t trust science in this day and age, but it still happens.

Somehow, doctors in the UK just found something potentially worse:

Parents who let their kids suffer indefinitely instead of taking them off life support because they’re waiting for a “miracle” to happen.

No doubt parents are going through the hardest time of their lives in these situations, but if a doctor is saying there’s no cure available for your child and s/he’s only going to suffer from this point forward, they’re not trying to mess with you. They’ve done all they can, they’re telling the truth, and no “miracle” is going to change that. (Also, if prayer worked, wouldn’t the kids not need the life support systems in the first place…?)

“While it is vital to support families in such difficult times, we are increasingly concerned that deeply held belief in religion can lead to children being potentially subjected to burdensome care in expectation of ‘miraculous’ intervention,” the authors warned. “In many cases, the children about whom the decisions are being made are too young to subscribe to the religious beliefs held by their parents, yet we continue to respect the parents’ beliefs.”

Citing examples of the treatments involved, they argued that subjecting children to suffering with no scientific hope of a cure could breach article three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture. “Spending a lifetime attached to a mechanical ventilator having every bodily function supervised and sanitised by a carer or relative, leaving no dignity or privacy to the child or adult has been argued as inhumane,” they argued.

Although the cases included Muslim, Jewish and Roman Catholic families, the biggest obstacle the authors said they faced were less established, “fundamentalist” evangelical Christian groups with roots in the African community.

Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “This is probably the most terrible situation for any parent, but the experience and advice of doctors must not be held ransom to religious beliefs, however strongly held.”

This isn’t just about faith. This is about parents who are willing to let their children suffer. No good parent would do that… unless they were completely brainwashed into thinking it was acceptable.

Part of the problem (if you can call it that) is that parents in the UK don’t have to worry about costs of prolonging treatment since the National Health System covers it. I wonder if fundie Christian parents in America would make the same decisions if they had to pay for it.

(Thanks to Dick for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • dgriffey

    You know what I don’t do when it comes to parents making such horrible choices (or families in general)?  I don’t judge them with a self-righteous assuredness that would shame a fundamentalist.  Especially when it comes to the decision to end a person’s life.  I know, I know.  It’s a chance to score a hit point against religion.  And maybe in our modern Internet age of blogs, that is really the only thing that matters.

    • Paul_Robertson

       Sometimes someone needs to do a little judging. People don’t always make the best decisions for themselves or others when under sever emotional stress. Sometimes cooler heads need to prevail. This is particularly true in a country such as the UK where the medical system has been socialised. Bad enough that the parents subject their children to interminable suffering, let alone expecting the rest of society to pay for it.

      • Tim

         “This is particularly true in a country such as the UK where the medical system has been socialised. Bad enough that the parents subject their children to interminable suffering, let alone expecting the rest of society to pay for it.”

        A setence that could only have been typed by an American. The UK health system hasn’t been “socialised”.  It was set up after WWII to serve everyone regardless of ability to pay.  I regard that as just basic human decency rather than socialism.   Only Americans use the term “socialised” because the NHS is not regarded as socialist here in fact every government has invested in it over the decades from the left and the right.  To almost everyone outside of the USA publically funded healthcare is just the normal way to do things* – the US is the odd man out here with their “capitalised healthcare”.   The whole point with the NHS is it allows the doctors and the patients to forget about who is paying and treat according to need.   The doctors and patients will be completely ignorant of the cost of the care they are giving and recieving.  The idea that the tax-payer is picking up the tab is not something that many Brits fret about (and we spend almost half the proportion of our national income on healthcare than you do in the USA and live longer on average than you guys so it isn’t like this disregard about cost and who is paying breeds any more inefficiency than in the USA.  Perhaps we are irrational on this point the beloved NHS is of course more of a national religion than the Church of England (which explains all the nurses bouncing on beds at the London 2012 opening ceramony) 

        * just as it is normal for the state to build highways or organise an army or schools.  – noone talks about the UK having “socialised roads” or “socialised Universities” and yet “socialised medicine” seems to be a meme that has taken hold in your country. 

        • Borax

           Ever notice that no one wants to get rid of the socialized police departments and hire Pinkerton Detectives instead?

          • Ibis3

            But they do outsource prisons to private companies. 

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              And fill those prisons with criminals. Yeah, sure, they get some of the real bad ones locked up now and again, but most of the prison population did nothing more than get caught with a joint. It’s almost like the police and the “justice” system are collaborating to keep the prisons full, thus justifying the “need” for more/bigger/better/more secure prisons…

              • Ibis3

                 And more police to fill them. And see? Look how violent society is. Better vote for those “tough on crime” conservatives, because liberals  just love crime and anarchy. With those commies in power, you’ll have to lock up your kids to keep ‘em safe from the black and brown and red people criminal classes.

        • Paul_Robertson

          A setence that could only have been typed by an American.
          Actually, I’m Australian. (Didn’t you notice that I spelled it with an “s” and not a “z”?) We have socialised medicine here also, only it’s not considered a pejorative term here, nor did I use it as such.
          While the average Brit may have the luxury of not worrying about counting the beans themselves, it does not mean that it does not have to be done or that there is not someone doing it. In point of fact, “waste in the NHS” scores ten-and-a-half million hits on Google. The need to slice the pie more and more thinly is a serious issue world-wide. Life-support is very, very, expensive and the cost involved in keeping someone plugged in indefinitely should not be dismissed in such a hand-waving fashion.

          • Mogg

            Er, I’m Australian and I’ve never heard the term ‘socialised healthcare’ used to refer to our system – and I have worked in public health for years. I have only ever heard it used in the perjorative American sense.

            • Paul_Robertson

              I guess I was wrong about hearing the term then…

        • Paul H.

           From an American:  Hear hear!!

        • 0xabad1dea

          The OP already responded, but don’t take “socialized medicine” as some sort of insult or implication of which party pushes for it, it’s just meant in contrast to “Americanized medicine”. 

        • Celeste

           Tim, as an American, I agree with you 100%. I think slamming the healthcare system for allowing this is pointing the finger in the wrong direction. Here in America, people put themselves into tremendous debt to pay for medical service, and I have no doubt that, as long as a fundie had the means to raise the money, yes, they’d keep their child on life-support indefinitely to wait for that miracle. This isn’t a problem with how healthcare is provided. It is a problem with the beliefs of people that would allow their child to suffer like that.

      • Slow Learner

        I don’t mind paying for it; it’s part of the idea of universal medical care, you accept that sometimes you’ll pay for care that you personally disagree with.
        What I’m not sure of is where the balance should lie, in cases like this, between the medical autonomy of the patient (sometimes as expressed by their parents) and the strong advice of doctors.
        After all, doctors over-riding the wishes of patients (or their families) is a very sticky situation to put yourself in, albeit sometimes it is necessary, like in the case of a child of Christian Scientists who needs medical care.
        It’s an especially tough one when the decision in question is something like removing life support.

        • Paul_Robertson

          I don’t know… I think that universal medical care involves paying only for treatment that is medically necessary. It shouldn’t involve paying for treatment when there is no reasonable prospect of success. This is particularly true when it comes to treatments like ECMO (the treatment that was the subject of the court case mentioned in the article) as it is not only expensive but it is also scarce. I don’t know the numbers for the NHS, but there will only be a relatively small number of ECMO beds for the population. Most hospitals, here in Australia (a country with very good health care), do not have it at all. If patients are allowed to tie up these scarce beds indefinitely then there is a very real risk that other patients will die for no net gain. It’s not even about secularism vs religion – it’s about allocation of a finite resource and an unfortunately pragmatic reality that we don’t have enough health resources to waste on people who aren’t going to benefit from them.

          • Slow Learner

            I think universal healthcare involves paying for treatment which is not ‘necessary’; otherwise you end up jumping through no end of hoops to justify the ‘necessity’ of your care. As we can see in current US fights, various care, especially that relating specifically to women and/or sex is fought over bitterly and regarded by many as unnecessary in any circumstances.
            You’ve got a fair point about tying up scarce resources, however, and that is a fair justification for doctors to force the decision, in the same way that triage after major incidents can lead to death for people who (with greater resources) could perhaps have lived.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Yeah, try telling me that my manual wheelchair isn’t “necessary”. Sure, I have a power wheelchair, it’s great for outdoors stuff and daily living, but what am I supposed to do when (not if) it breaks down? Sit around in bed for weeks, waiting for the repair? And what about, oh… going places with my family? Or hanging out in the house with my folks? Power chair doesn’t fold up and fit in the trunk, and the parents don’t want it in the main house for any number of reasons (me being a bit clumsy, for one).

              So, yeah, the manual chair is 100% a necessity… but the State doesn’t agree, and will not cover any repairs or upgrades to my backup set of “legs”. The state balks at covering the regular maintenance of the power chair, too, though they will do it. We had to pay out of pocket for the solid tires (never mind that solid tires = no flats = money saved).

              I can’t imagine keeping someone on life support like that, just… no. Mourn the loss in whatever way you want, build a shrine to your relative, what have you, but tying up resources that other patients need, when there is no hope of recovery? That’s kinda dickish.

        • Patterrssonn

          From the sounds of it, in these cases the Dr’s represent the medical autonomy of the pt more than the parents.

      • dgriffey

        I’m uncomfortable with this growing trend of saying ‘I have to pay for your healthcare, therefore what you do with your lives, health, and bodies is open to me to judge.’  The essence of liberalism has always been it is not ours to judge others, and it is the right of an individual to do with their own as they see fit.  Anyone remember Terri Schiavo?  Did we enjoy seeing everyone and their brother jump in with an opinion there?  Same here.  Because it is not always an exact science, and there have been times – rare though they are – when sudden turn arounds from even the worst medical conditions have happened, I’m willing to keep my hands off and let the parents work things through, whether they be religious or not religious.

        • Paul_Robertson

          I’m uncomfortable with this growing trend of saying ‘I have to pay for your healthcare, therefore what you do with your lives, health, and bodies is open to me to judge.’
          I don’t think that’s what’s happening here at all. I’m not sure what scenarios you’re talking about more broadly speaking either. Abortion springs to mind, but that’s never been a case of “I’m paying for your abortion therefore I want a say in your ‘lives, health and bodies.’” but rather a fight not to have the healthcare system pay for abortion at all in any circumstances.

          The essence of liberalism has always been it is not ours to judge others, and it is the right of an individual to do with their own as they see fit.
          Individuals can make decisions that are harmful to others. Individuals can make decisions that are harmful to society at large. I don’t think that it’s ever been part of liberalism to support these kinds of decisions.

          Anyone remember Terri Schiavo? Did we enjoy seeing everyone and their brother jump in with an opinion there?
          That was a terrible saga. But I’m not saying that we should consider the opinion of “everyone and their brother” – just that of the doctors.

          Because it is not always an exact science, and there have been times – rare though they are – when sudden turn arounds from even the worst medical conditions have happened, I’m willing to keep my hands off and let the parents work things through, whether they be religious or not religious.
          It’s a tough situation and for the most part this is exactly what happens. But when you have a situation that is manefestly hopeless and family who have made it clear that they will not let go under any circumstances, then I think it’s only reasonable for the state to step in and say, “No more.”

          • dgriffey

            No. Because if history proves anything, it’s that things never stop there.  If we want a state that allows people to make the decisions to end this or that life, or have an abortion, or whatever, fine.  But I draw the line at allowing anyone ever to step in and make it happen.  Studying history, I would be a fool to open that Pandora’s box.

            • Paul_Robertson

              We’re not talking about killing people – just discontinuing treatment and allowing them to die naturally. I’m not sure if you were aware of that or if it makes a difference to you.

              As for allowing that to happen – it is happening now. It has been for some time. No plunge down the slippery slope so far.

              • dgriffey

                I know it is happening.  And if parents want to make such a horrible, difficult choice, I understand it and will say no more one way or another.  But 1) I am not going to take such a terrible moment and use it to advance an agenda (too much of our modern world seems to be ‘how can we use this human drama as a way to scores points), and 2) I don’t want anyone making it happen.  Leave it as a choice.  Not something that someone else can dictate.

                • SphericalBunny

                  I’m in the UK. Local health services, particularly to do with mental health have been hit hard by the recession and subsequent budget cuts. Before that, there was a well known phenomena called the postcode lottery for certain treatments. Whilst I believe there will always be critical health care, options and choices for patients are already disappearing in some cases. Whilst this type of case is thankfully rare, it does cost money to artificially extend the life of someone who is already dying, oft times painfully. Money that the NHS doesn’t have. 

                  This money has to be diverted from cases where it could make a positive, i.e. life changing or even life saving, difference. There have been *cases where extremely sick and potentially dying patients have been diverted by ambulance because their local hospital doesn’t have the needed facilities. There have been *cases where patients have been left unseen for hours in corridors because there haven’t been enough beds. The lack of facilities and beds is down to the local health authority not having enough money. It is arguable then that the parents in the horrifying situation of being informed that their child is dying with no chance of reprieve who decide against medical advice to ‘hold out for a miracle’ are limiting the choice of others not to suffer.*rare, AFAIK

                • Paul_Robertson

                  I am not going to take such a terrible moment and use it to advance an agenda (too much of our modern world seems to be ‘how can we use this human drama as a way to scores points)
                  People seem fond of announcing reasons why criticism of their viewpoint is off-limits at a particular time. We end up caught between “too soon” and “why now?” If an airline crashed, then we’d be scouring the remains and leaving no stone unturned in a quest to improve our systems; no one would countenance leaving the wreckage to go cold out of concern for the sensibilities of the families. When better to discuss the law surrounding end of life decisions than following a big court case on the matter?

          • Baby_Raptor

            “Abortion springs to mind, but that’s never been a case of “I’m paying for your abortion therefore I want a say in your ‘lives, health and bodies.’” but rather a fight not to have the healthcare system pay for abortion at all in any circumstances.”
            Which is complete and total bullshit. Just privilege to people who don’t deserve it.  

            • Paul_Robertson

              FWIW, I’m pro-choice. The point that I was making was that the abortion battle and the battle around end of life decisions are being fought on different grounds.

        • Patterrssonn

          The one thing you’re missing is that health care is a finite resource. The huge amounts of time, money and resources that these cases consume aren’t being used elsewhere, where they could actually do some good. I guarantee there have been times when a child has gone sour and nurses and doctors have had to create a makeshift half assed ICU bed on a ward because some parent has decided, against medical advice to wait for a miracle.

          • dgriffey

            I’m not missing it.   I’m just saying that if we go down that path, then anything – anything – can be controlled based on that justification.  Plus, in the end, decisions like this are nobody’s business.  I don’t want anyone or anything getting into my decision should it ever come to that – and I, of course, hope it never does.

            • Patterrssonn

              We are already on that path, have been from the beginning. Allocation of resources is a constant day to day process and decisions on the efficacy of treatments is always part of the discussion.

        • 0xabad1dea

          We’re all “hands off”. No-one (disclaimer: probably “almost no-one”) is advocating FORCING the parents to pull the plug. Open debate of moral gray areas is good and healthy even if, in this particular case, no matter what you do or don’t say it will be an incredibly painful experience.

          • Travshad

            In this case the hospital went to court and received permission from the court to discontinue life support on a 8 year old boy against the wishes of his parents.  The court is “FORCING the parent to pull the plug”.  

            • Patterrssonn

              What case is that?

        • Ken

          Without looking for a fight, I would genuinely like to see a list, website, whatever, of “miraculous cures.”  But I also need to see what the doctors actually did, along with the miracles.  I know we often read of these quasi-supernatural events, but I find almost no documentation other than Christian claims.  Someone on chemo that completes treatment, then claims a miracle three months later is a fraud.  Waking from a years long coma is a less explicable event, but what was going on during those sleeping years?  Anyone have such a list anywhere, or is this just another apocryphal story inflated by wishful retellings?   Surely there are thousands of such miracle cases (from Benny Hinn alone) and proof is abundant, isn’t it?

    • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

      You know what I don’t do?  I don’t treat my pets with more humanity and compassion than people.

      When a pet breaks it back or gets terminal cancer and starts suffering organ failures, we euthanize to keep it from having to go through all that needless pain and suffering.  We talk about its inhumane to allow such suffering, even if the decision to end its life is difficult, because its the only right thing we can do.  That it would be immoral to inflict such needless, lifelong, pain on a beloved pet solely for our emotional benefit.

      Then, in the same breath, we as a society will champion the cause of forcing people to live a lifetime of excruciating pain and agony with no hope of recovery simply because people are “special” and if we’re pious enough our imaginary friends will save them.

      Its a sad statement on our society that we’ll treat our pets better than a person who is suffering needlessly.

      • Clarissaz

         My child is not a dog, scumbag.

        If you ever become really ill, I bet you will beg for mercy like a little bitch.

        • YuriNalarm

          ^chump

        • Golfie98

          So you be all right treating your child worse than a dog. That is the only point made – not that a child is a dog.

        • http://brielle.sosdg.org Brielle

           Wow.  Feel the Christian love! 

          • Clarissaz

             I’m not a Christian, you fucking bigot.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Missing the point like a Fucking champ! Get off the internet until you’ve learned some basic reading comprehension. 

        • Margaret Whitestone

           So you’d grant your dog more mercy than you would your child?  Now that’s sadistic.

    • Octoberfurst

       I don’t see this post as being “self-righteous” at all. Nor do I see this as a cheap way to score points for atheism as you do. What Hemant is pointing out is that these parents are letting their kids suffer under the illusion that a “miracle” will take place and their child will be well again. They believe this nonsense because of their church teachings. I have seen it many times when I was a Christian and would watch televangelists on TV. They always had guests on with stories about how a loved one was gravely ill and dying only to be prayed for and then–VOILA!– the loved one is suddenly in perfect health!  I have even heard stories of loved ones dying and being brought back to life through prayer! It’s idiotic but people believe it.
         I don’t fault the parents because they are in grief and desperately want their child to live. But they have also been fed BS by religion in that they are told that all they need to do is pray and God will grant a miracle—eventually. That is what Hemant was criticizing.

    • Clarissaz

       Mehta, you have no idea what a parent in that situation is going through.  You don’t know what the medical outcome will be.

      But what you have shown is what a monstrous swine you are.

      Your post is contemptible.

      • Clarissaz

         Atheists really are pieces of shit. FU Mehta.

        • Golfie98

          Spoken like a true xian.

          • Nordog6561

            Gee, I’ve never said that.  Am I not a true Christian?  Can I still be a Scotsman?

            • Golfie98

              I have no idea if you are a true christian – I don’t even know if christians know what one is. What I do know is that the person calling atheists pieces of shit is likely to profess to be a true christian. As for your Scottish heritage – how the hell would I know? Perhaps you are just a fallacy.

              • Nordog6561

                Fair enough.

          • Clarissaz

            Who said I was a Christian, you fuckin bigot?

            I just despise people who go after the defenseless.

            And tough talkers who have never faced such life crises.

            Cowardly little pimp.  Mehta doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about.

            • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

              Clarissaz says: “Who said I was a Christian, you fuckin bigot?”
              Clarissaz also says: “Atheists really are pieces of shit.”

              So go shove your hypocritical bigoted bullshit up your own ass, you donkeyfucking douchcanoe.

              • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                To be fair to Clarissaz, Christian and atheist are not the only two options.

                • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

                  Indeed not, but s/he deserves to be called on out using one side of her mouth to judge atheists as a whole, while the other side accuses someone of being a bigot.

            • pagansister

               You may not be a Christian,  (which is fortunate for that community) but whatever you are, you’re a poor representative.  If you don’t belong to any organized religious group etc. then, IMO, you are a poor representative of the human race.  You can’t seem to express yourself with any language but foul.  That is sad.   BTW, how do you know that the folks that you are replying to have never faced such life crises?  You don’t.  Reading your words helps me realize that you and others like you help cause the many disagreements between nations in this world—-  really sad.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Go take your PMS pills and lay down for awhile. You’ll eventually get over this massive outrage you’re feeling right now.

          It’s okay. Everyone makes a total ass of themselves once in awhile…Self-importance and rage that someone might disagree with you are common faults. 

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            I think Clarissaz is being unreasonable about this, especially in her rhetoric about Hemant, but seriously, sexist references to “PMS pills” are not helpful.

            • amycas

               I’m glad somebody else mentioned it

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Ugh, right, because any time a woman is upset/angry, it must be hormonal.

            That was really fucking sexist, man.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          Way to take one post and condemn not only its author but an entire swath of people. Seriously, go back and re-read your posts as if someone else had written them for a little perspective.

      • Golfie98

        Did you read the report or just open your mouth. We do know what the medical outcome is going to be – death, no hope of recovery, ceasing to be – you get the drift. What these people are doing is stalling death, and so prolonging suffering, because they believe there will be a supernatural miracle which never happens. The thrust of the post, unless I missed something, is whether this should be resisted on the grounds of religious miracle belief does not trump medical knowledge on the basis that as atheist we know that miracles are bunkum or is it too painful a time for the actual parent involved (not you) to be seen to be point scoring.

        • Clarissaz

           You have obviously never been in that kind of situation, weasel. And I don’t know about miracles, but there is such a thing as spontaneious remission.

          I bet you will whine and cry if you are ever in that sitution, tough boy.

          Doctor are often wrong.  They kill over 100,000 people a year through malpractice.

          So kiss my ass, shitforbrains.

          • pagansister

             Would it be possible for you to reply to folks without using crude language?  I’m not a prude by any means, but somehow I think disagreement could be spoken with a little more respect for the other person.  Just saying. 

          • amycas

             Doctors don’t kill people through malpractice. Kill is a word with meaning, it implies intent. Doctors try to treat people, sometimes doctors make mistakes, sometimes those mistakes can lead to death, but I would never say that the doctor killed someone. Chances are that many of those 100,000* would have died anyway if they hadn’t received medical attention.

            *still really need a citation for this number.

    • Baby_Raptor

      When someone willingly causes suffering, especially through purposeful denial of facts, they deserve every ounce of judgement they get. 

      Also, fundies have no shame. If they did, they’d have long ago died from all the shame their actions should bring them.

      But, hay. Anything to get a hit against something you disagree with, right? That’s all that matters to christianity. 

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    NHS = national health service

  • Borax

    This isn’t just a UK/NHS issue. This occurs every day in the US as well, and it isn’t just children involved. Let me outline a scenario I’ve seen played out numerous times in 10 years of being a nurse; an elderly person with multiple chronic ailments has taken the time to fill out a living will declining heroic measures and have an active DNR order. The patient takes a major turn for the worse and is no longer able to make decisions for their self. Despite the patients wishes, decision making now falls on the family and the family decides to do everything possible.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/HXMGJONKJJ35BYMNFHNGXMXH2U Mary P.

       THIS!
      My sister has said this many times.
      90 year old cancer patients with feeding tubes getting gallons of transfusions and medications to keep them in a painful decaying state because the grandchildren feel they must.
      My sister works at a VA hospital where this is free. 
      People enjoy complaining about the VA, but this is one of the reasons they have limited resources.  Also, the government red tape.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      This is why I have it not only in writing but a video will AND I tell everyone who loves me or cares for me that nothing is to be done to keep me alive should it come to that.  I do not want people spending money to watch me deteriorate.  I also don’t want to be lying in a facility being kept alive and maybe have no one sitting by my side but perhaps my son bringing his kids on a the monthly pilgrimage to visit Grandma in the hospital and no one wants to go.  It’s useless, it’s wasteful, and it’s BS.  If it’s my time, it’s my time.  Trust the doctors. 

      I know the credo that “doctors make mistakes.”  Fewer make mistakes than don’t.  Life is a crapshoot no matter how you look at it.  But if I’m that far gone, let me finish the journey so everyone else can get back to living (and grieving, yes, but living nonetheless).

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Just as crappy: DNR is on file and in order (family supports the decision fully), but the nurses forget to band the patient when admitted. It was tough to watch my grandma go through another week of suffering. Mistakes happen (I forgive the staff for the oversight), but I can’t help but be a little bitter about the whole frakup.

    • allein

      My grandmother reversed her own DNR because it was “just pneumonia” (she had the DNR because of cancer)…for her sake, I wish she hadn’t.

  • A3Kr0n

    Some parents say no medical intervention because it’s up to God, and other say use medical intervention until God gets around to performing a miracle. I see no logic in religion.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Why don’t we just make it simple and say that nobody gets put on life support anymore, not children, not adults, unless the families are willing to pay for it themselves? That would eliminate the whole objection to “indefinite”. That way we would eliminate people in comas, as well. We could even make it a rule that if doctors say there is no chance of recovery, we just give them a lethal injection, right then and there. You know, like we do with sick pets. You had a crash on the highway and you can’t breathe on your own, and maybe you never will? Well, we’ll just put you down right there on the scene. You know, because medical attention is now torture.

    Seriously, is this really where we atheists want to go?

    • Paul_Robertson

       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

      • The Other Weirdo

         I understand the limitation of my argument, and I know what a false dilemma is. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate the emotional manipulation attempted in the OP, screaming “Torture!” and “It’s for the children!” in the headline.

  • Just some guest

    Wait…. what exactly is the “suffering” you speak of? What exactly are you talking about there?

    What makes me pause there is the reference to dignity and privacy. A brain-dead child wouldn’t care about dignity and privacy, so we’re apparently talking about a different condition here – a condition that allows the patient to be aware of the things going on around him/her. Also, it says the patients are “too young to subscribe to their parents’ beliefs” – not incapable of speech, or mentally incapable to understand their situation, but just too young. In combination, that sounds as if the patient in question depended on life support, but was otherwise unharmed.
    And if that’s the case, then what’s so terrible it makes you want to end their life?

    • Patterrssonn

      I’m guessing you’ve never been intubated. And you’re loc can be too low for awareness or communication but high enough to experience pain. All you are then is a creature that suffers. And what is the point of that, existing only to suffer?

    • Paul_Robertson

      A brain-dead child wouldn’t care about dignity and privacy
      I’m not sure where you got “brain dead” from. We’re talking about children who are alive, but cannot remain that way without extreme medicial intervention such as machines performing the function of their heart and lungs.

      Also, it says the patients are “too young to subscribe to their parents’
      beliefs” – not incapable of speech, or mentally incapable to understand
      their situation, but just too young.

      Anyone on life-support is incapable of speech. If you can speak, then you can breath on your own and you therefore don’t need life support.

      • Just some guest

        So… it’s about fully conscious people, capable of thought and emotion, aware of their surroundings?
        That’s… that’s terrible.

        • Paul_Robertson

          No. Someone on life support will be heavily sedated; people will, for example, fight against a machine breathing for them if they are awake. But as Patterrssonn said, that does not mean that the patient cannot suffer.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    “This is about parents who are willing to let their children suffer. No good parent would do that… unless they were completely brainwashed into thinking it was acceptable.”

    Alternatively, no good parent would let their children die.

    This criticism is completely off base because there’s no clear reason to say suffering is worse than death (or vice versa). It’s an impossible choice regardless of religion.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      As another poster pointed out above, anyone that tries to do this with an animal will likely find themselves on a charge of causing or allowing unnecessary suffering. We know what the right thing to do is here, there’s just a weird blind spot about applying that knowledge to humans, and that’s caused entirely by the warping effects of religion.

      • Bo Tait

        Is it entirely caused by the warping effects of religion or could there be more to it? Could we be hard-wired to try and stop our children from dying at all costs? Our kids represent the embodiment of our genes continuing surviving which would be in our best interest. This would explain more willingness to let go of a pet. What happens to people’s bodies when they are put in this position? Do they get a major hormonal shift when faced with this decision?I know we all would like to think we would do “the right thing” and call it. But it’s one thing to say it and another to do it. As with many things, when you’re standing on the outside its an obvious choice, but when you’re in it you can find a millions ways to avoid that same conclusion.
        How many of us have caused our own suffering by staying in a broken relationship, too stubborn to let go even though its obvious to anyone else that it’s hopeless. I’m not saying it’s right to keep suffering children alive at all costs, but perhaps being more compassionate  to the people that actually have to make this decision and not self-righteously calling them bad parents when most of us have never, and will never be put into a position so alien to our nature.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        It’s not caused “entirely by the warping effects of religion.”

        Atheistic parents might not talk about supernatural miracles, but they might believe there’s a small chance the expert-but-fallible doctors are wrong. They also might believe existence with suffering is better than nonexistence.

        It’s not just religious people who go by different ethical rules when it comes to humans vs. other animals…or other kids vs. their own kids. There are conflicting values in play, religion or not.

      • Travshad

        There is no juridiction in the United States that would charge anyone for keeping a non-human animal alive using whatever medical treatments they can afford.  I doubt that there is any jurisdiction that would punish anyone for allowing a non-human animal to die a natural death without receiving any medical care. 

        This is a case of parents using whatever medical treatments that are available to prolong the life of their child.  There is no evidence in the case in the original post that the boy is in any pain and his family does not believe he is in any pain.  There is no evidence that this boy is “suffering” in any extraordinary way. 

    • Ibis3

       An impossible choice?

      Death=bad
      Suffering + death + nothing else=worse

      That looks like an easy choice to me. Emotionally, death and seeing a loved one suffer are difficult, but this doesn’t make such choices impossible.

  • Drew84

    This is proof that religious fundies should not be allowed to have children. Here in the UK a minority of people do abuse the NHS (the parents in this article are a good example) but I don’t think people outside the UK realise that we have multiple options apart from the NHS when it comes to medical care like for example there is BUPA which is a private healthcare alternative to the NHS so in other words it is for people who have the money but don’t want to wait for treatment.

  • Savoy47

    I think one way to handle situations like this is to have a state appointed 
    advocate  to make  decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.  Same for faith healing.  

    As a parent how could I say, “go ahead and kill my child”?  How could I live with myself and not be tormented by second guessing that decision the rest of my life?  An advocate may lift that burden from the parents.  It’s gods will and the promise of heaven don’t seem to be working here.  At times like this I don’t think a parent can be objective.

  • Bo Tait

    I’m sure sometimes it people’s religion that gets in the way of people making a tough decision like this, but I can’t help but think that sometimes although they may say they’re waiting for a miracle, they are only using religion as a convenient excuse to prolong the inevitable.

    I’m not sure how safe it is to assume that without religion, no one would do the same thing. They may just find another idea to keep holding on, whether that is personal anecdotes, statistics or a gambler’s fallacy. There are plenty of ways a grieving parent could try to justify keeping their child alive, no matter how irrational.

  • Xeon2000

    If the professional medical consensus is that there is no chance of recovery, they shouldn’t pay to prolong life support. If the family disagrees, they can find alternate means to pay costs. I’m sure those millions of dollars in donations the Christians scientists see could help. That’s what they’re there for, isn’t it? It seems cut and dry to me.

  • anon101

    This post is bullshit for three reasons.
    1) These children are on life
    support. The only reason they would suffer is because the doctors
    don’t give them proper pain meds so no fault of the parents.
    2) We are talking here about the UK and the NHS budgeted and chronically
    underfunded. The doctors there have an interest in switching of the
    machines asap in order to save money.
    3) There are a lot of people
    out there who will try treatments with very low chances of success to
    stay alive. Who are you to judge parents for doing the same thing for
    their children.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Just for clarity: pain meds can’t handle it all. For example, some patients with extreme burns are placed into a medically-induced coma so that they don’t have to suffer the constant, indescribable agony.

  • Lynn

    So…2/3 of the parents who refused to remove life support were “influenced by their religious beliefs” and you want to call this a fundamentalist issue? 1-2 cases a year at one particular hospital?

    And the best you can cite for all the “suffering” is a lack of privacy? Is privacy more important than life now? And “inhumane” is the same as “torturous”?
    Must be a slow news day.I’m a parent. In the United States. I’m an atheist. And I’d very likely make the same decision. If my beliefs about how precious existence is and how not a moment should be wasted were put on the same level as “religious” belief, it would be a “religious” decision for me, in addition to being damn near impossible to let my baby go (a phrase I can’t even type without tearing up). 

    There’s trusting science, and then there’s the story you heard about the one kid who pulled through even after everyone said he’d never make it, and when it’s YOUR CHILD, who you’d throw yourself and your whole family off a cliff to save without even a first thought, much less a second one….No, they can’t let go.

    And religion doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it.

    • daz

      Hear hear.

      It seems a lot of people are missing the point that you don’t have to be religious to have a hope that someone’s status may change. We’ve all read about people surviving against the odds, and as long as there’s a chance it must be hard to let go.  The only way as a parent I would let go is if several doctors stated that my child was constantly in great pain.   Then it becomes an issue, but I would not let anyone touch those machines unless that was the case.

  • Psychotic Atheist

    Great Ormond Street Hospital (where the authors work)  has released a press release about it
    http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/news/press-releases/2012-press-release-archive/comment-on-the-procedure-for-complex-end-of-life-cases/

    “There is a long established procedure to go to the courts for a
    declaration that treatment may be legally withdrawn.  In recent times
    the process has typically taken about a week and has produced a clear
    declaration either way.   If the courts do not concur, no doctor is
    required to continue treatment against their professional judgement. 
    However, if another clinical team is willing to provide treatment, the
    child should be transferred to that team. ”

    The authors of the paper cite 17 ‘recalcitrant’ parents (11 of which cited some kind of expectation of divine intervention).  5 of the 11 changed their mind upon speaking with religious leaders. 1 of the 11 was resolved by a High Court decision as described above.   5 were eventually left, all Christian.

    The abstract doesn’t discuss the other 6, who presumably cited some ‘secular’ justification (maybe including scientific faith: anticipating advances in medical treatments), which is a shame.  Has anyone read the full paper?  What does it say about them?  I wonder if it says anything – they didn’t exactly pick a neutral title: ‘Should religious beliefs be allowed to stonewall a secular approach to withdrawing and withholding treatment in children?’, Brierley et al. J Med Ethics 2012 0 (2012), p. medethics-2011-100104v1If you go to the Journal of Medical Ethics’ website and search for Brierley, you can read some of the responses to this paper.

  • CanadianNihilist

    I find it hard to blame the parents about this. They are in emotional distress and they can’t bring themselves to let their children die.
    Also taking one of life support isn’t a quick death like an injection. they lie there and starve/dehydrate until they die. There has been no credible research that I know of  to determine if the patient is in pain whilst they die slowly for a few weeks.

    Also you never know. My father was in a comma after a heart problem that led to a stroke. The doctors said if he didn’t wake up in 36 hours after the operation he was not going to. I’m obviously not religious but after 40 hours came and went the family had a discussion and unanimously agreed to give him at least a fighting chance. a few days later he woke up and is mostly fine now.

    I don’t know what would have happened after a few weeks of him not waking up, but I can’t fault the parents for holding out for some kind of hope. Letting your child die must be one of the more painful decisions in life.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      “Letting your child die must be one of the more painful decisions in life.”

      Speaking as a parent, I’m pretty sure there’s no other decision one could make that would be more painful.

      • CanadianNihilist

        I’m not a parent but you’re probably right. However I try not to speak in absolutes so I used the qualifier. 

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          Which is fair, and my opinion as a parent is only that. Speaking for myself, my spouse, and those of my friends who are parents, using an absolute in this case would also be truthful.

  • gwen

    I can tell you that this is nothing new in America. As a long time pedi ICU nurse, it has been going on my entire career.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001351447253 Amanda Hernandez

    They aren’t keeping their kids alive because they’re religious. They’re keeping their kids alive because they’re PARENTS. As an animal it is in our nature to do anything for our offspring, even if there is *nothing* we can do; just look at chimps who still carry their dead infants around:
    http://news.discovery.com/animals/chimpanzee-mothers-carry-their-mummified-dead-infants.html

    It’s easy to say, “Yes, letting the child go is the logical thing to do” when you aren’t in that situation. It’s easy to call the people in these situations ‘bad parents’. But if something like this were to happen to your child, I’m sure you would be singing a different tune.

    The only people I’d call ‘bad parents’ are the ones who would sit back and watch their child die, like Christian Scientists. That, to me, is inhuman.

  • Tainda

    As a parent there would be no harder decision to make in your LIFE!  I saw the terrible pain my brother went through losing both his children at a VERY young age to genetic disorders.  Any parent would have difficulty with this decision, not just fundies.

    With that being said, if the child is on life support they are technically dead anyway and not suffering.  We can’t know that for sure but if you’re brain dead I suspect you aren’t aware of anything.

    • Tainda

      Now that I read the article I see it’s about stopping a treatment after docs say it’s pointless.  That may be an even harder decision.

      I work in a children’s hospital and I see sad stories here.  These kids go through absolute torture.  

      I don’t know what I would do if it were my own child.  After awhile I think I would say enough is enough.

      • PurpleThinker

        While working with different charity groups involved in organ donation and pediatric oncology, I watched faithful parents pray for god to take their child. On a constant drip, heavily sedated and still in obviously excruciating pain from metasticized brain cancer, their child was only waiting for death. Treatments failed, prayers for healing failed, and three generations were crying, joined hands and heads bowed while the father sobbed for the lord to grant his daughter death. It was one of the most heartrwrenching things I’ve ever watched. They had accepted she was going to die. Some of them blamed themselves for her cancer and pain, saying they were being punished for sin. Later I saw the mother cradling her, just crying and saying “go, go, you can go, please let her go” over and over. It broke me. I think of what those families go through, and think of how hard it must be to give up on those hopes to want only for their child to stop suffering….it’s truly horrible. Yet in the end, they did what parents should do: care for their child above even their own wants or feelings: to want release and end of pain, to be able to let their child die instead of enduring constant agony. It’s a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

  • John F

    “The NHS is chronically underfunded”

    I feel compelled to correct this. It isn’t.

    The NHS is a potentially bottomless pit. Without a budget, the drug companies could charge whatever they liked. The NHS budget prevents excessive profiteering.

    You may occasionally hear stories of people being denied drugs or being denied treatment, but this is not evidence of a chronically underfunded system, rather a system managing its finite resources. The wider system is actually working pretty well at the moment. Waiting lists are reasonable and facilities are in pretty good shape. The life expectancy rates  comparable with the rest of Western Europe, and some of the highest in the world.

    Whenever talking about British institutions, you always have to bare one thing in mind; we are world-class complainers. We complain about everything… Particularly the NHS. That is why Google is probably full of searches on people apparently railing against the NHS. The “chronically underfunded” quote no doubt came from a disgruntled Brit.
    But there is a cultural nuance here, that is often lost. For all we complain about it bitterly and exaggerate  its failings, the NHS is loved. Loved to the point (as already mentioned) that we put it in our Olympics opening ceremony.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Aww the slippery slope. Another move to destroy the sanctity of life all under the feigned guise of mercy and care for the child.  And another move away from the  “friendly” moniker in your title. 

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      And keeping someone with virtually no chance of recovery on life support indefinitely protects the “sanctity of life”? That is an asinine argument.

      Oh, and seriously, enough with the “That’s not friendly!” bullshit. Hemant is entitled to get up in arms about something that he feels strongly about, and he doesn’t have to sacrifice the “friendly” descriptor as a result. That’s a transparent attempt to deny someone the moral high ground just because they’re angry, and we should all recognize (as Greta Christina has so eloquently pointed out) that anger is not inherently a vice.

      • Rwlawoffice

         Didn’t say that. What I said was justification to have others besides the family make these choices, regardless of their basis, is the next step in destroying the sanctity of life.   The post, in an effort to attack the religion of parents is really saying that parents should not be allowed to make these decisions for any reason, because the state knows what is best for their child.  It is euthanasia. It is also used when we are talking about elderly people as well.  It becomes even more vocal when the state is paying for healthcare (as evidenced by some of the posts from folks outside of the US) where the idea of rationing limited resources becomes more paramount.  The idea is that once you start saying what life is worth living, even a life on life support ( which by the way should provide no suffering at all if done properly)  then you are starting to say what life is worth more than another.  That is the slope of eroding the sanctity of life.

        As for my other comment, of course Hemant can say what he wants and call himself what he he pleases. At some point the title will not match the rhetoric.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          What I said was justification to have others besides the family make these choices, regardless of their basis, is the next step in destroying the sanctity of life.

          You could also say that this is the next step in eliminating human suffering with equal justification (i.e. none).

          It becomes even more vocal when the state is paying for healthcare (as evidenced by some of the posts from folks outside of the US) where the idea of rationing limited resources becomes more paramount.

          Rationing limited resources is still a problem when an entity other than the state is providing healthcare. Limited resources don’t suddenly become unlimited when put in the hands of corporations or individuals.

          As for my other comment, of course Hemant can say what he wants and call himself what he he pleases. At some point the title will not match the rhetoric.

          This isn’t even remotely close to that point.

          • Rwlawoffice

            On rationing read spherical bunny post below. It proves my point. Government rationing of healthcare based on the decisions of government officials deciding which life is worth preserving and which one isn’t.

            • Margaret Whitestone

              Rationing of care is done constantly under our corporate healthcare model.  People who have money get excellent care.  People who don’t have money get substandard care, if they get any at all.   Insurance corporations routinely refuse to cover people for a variety of reasons such as “pre-existing conditions” (which means “you’re going to actually use this insurance rather than just fill our coffers with your premiums”),  use of certain prescription medications, being overweight or underweight, etc.  They’ll also refuse to pay various claims, particularly if they’re costly.  People who have chronic, severe conditions have found themselves cut off when their insurance company decided they became too much of a burden.

              Ours is the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world.  It’s the privileged people, who can’t stand the idea of everybody having access to care, who spread all of the lies about universal care.  Fear not, for even under “socialized medicine” the privileged can still buy their way to better care than the little people.  They just can’t let the “little people” die in the streets the way they do here. 

    • Margaret Whitestone

       There’s no “sanctity of life” in prolonging the suffering of another person so you can feel righteous about yourself.  

  • PurpleThinker

    Isn’t having the child on life support already a subversion of god’s will? Without the numerous surgeries, treatments and medication the child was given, he would have died years ago. I am always confused when religious families insist on life support for braindead/vegetative/uncurable relatives, and fight so hard aganist removal from machines. It seems obvious to me that the natural, god-mandated death is being fought tooth and nail. Technology is keeping the oxygen and blood circulating, heart pumping and nutrients/hydration to the body. God caused and/or allowed the sickness or injury resulting in supportive measures. Why ignore god’s actions and rely on man’s to defy the calling of the poor soul to heaven?

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      I think subconsciously, everyone knows that death is the end. Even the devoutly religious. That’s why everyone fights so hard against it.

      • Rwlawoffice

         I believe that your thoughts on this would change if you are around religious people when they die. The ones that I have been around have been at peace when they died believing that they were going to a better place.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          I am not denying that they believe in an afterlife on a conscious level. I look at the way our culture treats death, and all the evidence points to the fact that subconsciously everyone knows that death is the end. That’s why grief is so intense. That’s why having a child die is different than having a child move to another country. Even if your child moves to a monastery that doesn’t allow contact with the outside world, that’s not the same as having them die. Our culture treats death as the permanent and final separation that it is.

          • Rwlawoffice

             What appears you are doing is taking your atheist world view and claiming that all of us think the same on a subconscious level. Of course death is a separation from this life, but it is quite a leap and a projection to say that everyone knows on a subconscious level that it is really the end with no afterlife. Looking at the fact that every culture since time began has theories and religion that deals with an afterlife, the opposite could very well be the case- we all know on a subconscious level that there is an afterlife, most accept that on a conscious level as well, but some atheists do not.

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              The point of the subconscious is that it doesn’t involve thinking. I have absolutely no doubt that Christians believe that they will go to a glorious afterlife with their deity.

              I don’t dispute that. However, everything about the way our culture treats death does not line up with those stated beliefs. If there was no internal conflict, then death would not be treated the way that it is. It would not be accompanied by intense grief. The fact that the death of a child is not greeted with happiness and utter joy by Christians is certainly evidence that they do not feel on a subconscious level that their child is still alive.

            • PurpleThinker

              Just because man has feared death and their ending since we gained self-awareness does not mean there is an afterlife. When we lose friends and family to death, we grieve and miss their presence in our lives, so it’s not odd that people make up places where they’d be reunited. Because we fear being alone or forgotten, it’s understandable that we wish something of us will remain eternal. None of that makes it true, and not everyone “knows” there is an afterlife. Which afterlife do people instinctively seek? The majority believe in the one they are taught through their religion: heaven, hell, valhalla, tir nog, reincarnation, paradise or even other planets. Man is frightened by mortality, by fraility, by obscurity. These fears do not justify, explain or prove an afterlife of any kind exists.

              • Rwlawoffice

                 I wasn’t saying that because the vast majority of people believe in an afterlife that it proves there is one. What I said was that it is improper to say that we all subconsciously know that there is no afterlife when every culture has theories on it.  What I think that is evidence of is that subconsciously the vast majority of people think there is an afterlife, not the other way around.

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  Robert, you’re not getting the distinction between conscious and subconscious. Consciously, human beings have fantasized about and created various afterlives because the thought of non-existence is painful for many to endure. However, religious people’s emotional reactions to death do not line up with their professed beliefs. Based on this evidence, I have reason to think that subconsciously (not consciously!) there is a conflict between what they believe and what they actually feel when confronted with the death of a child.

  • Margaret Whitestone

    We let our pets go when we realize all they’re doing is suffering, and that there is no hope of anything else for them.  Why should we do anything less for our human loved ones?  There is no “sanctity of life” in prolonging suffering.

  • pagansister

     I’m not sure what I would do in the same situation, as fortunately I have never had to make it.    I would hope I could take in all the information as to chances of recovery, and work from that.   I would not want my child (or any family member for that matter) to suffer needlessly, and if the only thing keeping them alive was life support, then are they really alive?   Have read occasionally of someone staying alive on their own after life support being removed.  One thing I would not be doing is waiting for an imaginary creation to make things “all better”.  Using religion to continue to allow a child to suffer needlessly is not for me.  As perhaps the article mentioned or a commenter said—if that imaginary creation was going to help the child get better, why did that child end up on life support to begin with?

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      I think you’ve captured the most important point here. If we are to make life-and-death decisions, I don’t think letting religious (or any woo-type) beliefs inform your thinking is such a good idea.


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