June 29, 2011
Withdrawing nutrition and hydration from disabled infants
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s Bioethics Committee released a statement in April 2011 concerning the withholding and withdrawing of what is referred to as artificial nutrition and hydration. Artificial nutrition and hydration means that food and fluids are provided by tube feeding or intravenous.
The Canadian Paediatric Society’s statement approves the removal of nutrition and hydration from infants with cognitive or other disabilities based on ‘quality of life’ assessment and parental consent.
In such a case, the person does not die from a medical condition; when food and fluids are removed from a person with disabilities who is not otherwise dying then the cause of death is intentional dehydration.
The Canadian Paediatric Society says in its position statement :
“Current legal and ethics experts find no distinction between withholding (ie, not initiating) versus withdrawing ANH or other life-sutaining therapies. Nevertheless, many lay people and health care professionals perceive them to be different.”
Further on: ” Although individuals may hold personal or professional reservations, withholding or withdrawing ANH is both legally and ethically permissible.”
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition explains that, “Many leading bioethicists woould like you to believe that there is no difference between killing and letting die, but in fact there is a big difference. When we allow the killing of a person, we are allowing an intentional action or omission to directly cause death. Letting someone die means that we are actually allowing death to occur.”
Starving disabled newborns to death is not a new practice. Long before the release of this statement from the Canadian Paediatric Association, it was reported ten years after the 1969 abortion amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada, that the Canadian Psychiatric Association issued a statement publicly protesting the practice accepted in some Canadian hospitals of starving to death newborn babies with disabilities.
The Ottawa Citizen of Thursday, February 15, 1979 reported:
“In a strongly- worded statement, the 2,300 member group decries the ‘increasingly common’ practice in Canada of allowing retarded newborns to die of physical ailments that can be corrected.”
…The statement quotes a 20- year study of 50 infants at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, all suffering from a combination of Down’s syndrome and blockage of the food passage between their stomach and small intestine. The study found that 27 of the 50 babies were allowed to die without surgery – meaning the newborns starved to death as a result of their digestive problems.”
…”The CPA flatly rejects the views of ‘able and influential’ individuals in the medical profession and society at large who have endorsed the concept of withholding treatment from some retarded newborns.”
These babies with Down’s syndrome were not allowed to die, they were made to die by witholding surgery which would have corrected the blockage of their food passage.
Providing food and fluids whether by tube feeding or intravenous should be considered basic care, care that is owed to every living human being who requires it.
Every life is a gift from God and everyone has the right to live and see the beauty of life. I am saddened to hear that there are cases wherein they withdraw nutrition and hydration from disabled infants.