First, an email from Stuart Carver of Family Enterprising landed in my inbox. This ministry "promotes the foundation and strong growth of biblical households." They do this through Birth of a Family, which works alongside pregnancy resource centers to convert the opportunities they have with clients into "lasting nuclear families where fathers, mothers, and children live, grow, and play together in one home." A worthy and much-needed goal.
Stuart and his team are making an impact at one end of the pro-life spectrum while Ron Panzer, a hospice nurse, is having an effect on the other end.
Through the Hospice Patients Alliance and the Pro-Life Healthcare Alliance, he and others are working to maintain respect for the lives of dying people. They've documented some alarming trends in healthcare and offer resources for families to help them protect their loved ones. I asked to be placed on his e-newsletter list and received a nice email in response.
One of those resources is Stealth Euthanasia: Health Care Tyranny in America (a book available online). Another is The Hospice Patients Alliance Family Guide to Hospice Care, billed as "the most complete guide to hospice care available." It's available for download for a small fee.
Why are such resources needed? Because of atrocities like those described in a recent British Medical Journal (BMJ 2012;345:e7319). An anonymous doctor wrote of his/her anguish over having been forced to care for children after a decision was made to forgo medically provided feeding:
[The parents] wish for their child to die quickly once the feeding and fluids are stopped. They wish for pneumonia. They wish for no suffering. They wish for no visible changes to their precious baby. Their wishes, however, are not consistent with my experience. Survival is often much longer than most physicians think; reflecting on my previous patients, the median time from withdrawal of hydration to death was 10 days.
Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues. I try to make these matters clear from the outset so that these parents do not make a decision that they will come to regret. I try to prepare them for the coming collective agony that we will undoubtedly share, regardless of their certainty about their decision. I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken, as the only route out of a life that has become excruciating to the patient or to the parents who love their baby. I reflect on how sanitised this experience seems within the literature about making this decision.
. . . It is draining to be the most responsible physician. Everyone is looking to me to preside over and support this process. I am honest with the nurse when I say that it is getting more and more difficult to make my legs walk me on to this unit as the days elapse, that examining the baby is an indescribable mixture of compassion, revulsion, and pain.
Some say withdrawing medically provided hydration and nutrition is akin to withdrawing any other form of life support. Maybe, but that is not how it feels. . . . As I am embroiled in this situation once again, the one thing that helps me a little is the realisation that this process is necessarily difficult. It needs to be. To acknowledge that a child’s prospects are so dire, so limited, that we will not or cannot provide artificial nutrition is self selecting for the rarity of the situations in which parents and care teams would ever consider it.