Pro-Life Laws

‘Pro-Life’ Anti-Euthanasia Laws Made This Toddler’s Death Needlessly Excruciating

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parents mission to legalize euthanasiaEuthanasia is a difficult subject to discuss, even in the hypothetical sense. This conversation becomes doubly hard when children’s lives come into play. But it’s a vital subject that absolutely must be taken on, as a society, if we wish to ensure that patients can have a dignified death whenever possible. Case in point, Texas toddler Natalie Newton, who was left blind, deaf and paralyzed after suffering brain damage and was forced to die a horrific and needlessly painful death due due to the state’s end-of-life laws. 

Late last year Natalie, who was known as Natty to her family, fell into the family’s pool and went without oxygen for over an hour, causing an anoxic brain injury. This injury led to severe and irreversible brain damage that required a perilous, intensive surgical procedure that was ultimately futile. Unfortunately, Natty was left facing total organ failure, as well as being completely paralyzed, blind and deaf. Doctors gave her a only a four percent chance of surviving a year.

According to an interview with Click2Houston, Natty’s grandfather Brad Newton says that the family went before the ethics committee at Corpus Christi Hospital, where Natty was receiving treatment. The committee unanimously voted that end-of-life care was warranted for Natty’s case and the only humane thing to do. But due to Texas’ strict laws on end-of-life care, Corpus Christi was left with one choice; remove the child’s feeding tube and wait for her to pass, effectively starving her to death. It took Natty almost nine days to die, a process that her grandfather calls “pure torture.” Newton feels that his granddaughter’s situation could have been avoided if state laws had allowed for a physician-assisted death.

If you’re ready to rail against Texas, who admittedly has a history of controversial pro-life laws, think again. Physician-assisted death is only officially legal in three states, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. Chances are, if you reside outside of these states, the same situation could happen where you live.

Euthanasia is a hot button issue, to put it mildly. Despite the often excruciating circumstances patients are in, euthanasia laws are controversial and many physicians simply do not support these efforts. According to Dr. Sarah Austin, a neurologist that deals specifically with end-of-life cases:

“My worry with that would be, and I would never support that, because it’s such a slippery slope. When do you decide that this is the right time to hasten their death? I mean that’s what you’re doing with euthanasia is hastening death. I think you do better to allow that process to go on naturally and make people comfortable in the process.”

Dr. Austin makes a valid point on this subject. Putting issues of religious-based moral objections aside, the ramifications of allowing patients and physicians to determine how the patient dies need to be seriously debated and examined. Natalie’s case is especially complex because, even conscious, she wouldn’t have been able to give consent as a minor. This paper found on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website suggests that even in areas where physician assisted death is legal, the practice can be fraught with problems:

“Although the initial intent was to limit euthanasia and assisted suicide to a last-resort option for a very small number of terminally ill people, some jurisdictions now extend the practice to newborns, children, and people with dementia. A terminal illness is no longer a prerequisite. In the Netherlands, euthanasia for anyone over the age of 70 who is “tired of living” is now being considered”

The desire to prevent abusive or negligent euthanasia practices is laudable. But when disallowing even the possibility of humane end-of-life care leads to a toddler being starved to death for over a week, something is fundamentally wrong.

Natalie’s family recently set up The Natty Foundation in order to lobby the state of Texas to amend their end-of-life laws to allow physician assisted death as an option in cases like Natty’s.

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