May 29, 2024

Parents say some doctors sped up death for their dying child

Study suggests doctors are not involved in mercy killing
Do doctors euthanase cancer-stricken children at their parents’ request? According to a study of the deaths of 141 children in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, some parents think they do. However, the authors are sceptical. Lead author Joanne Wolfe, a palliative pain specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Boston Children’s Hospital, says the doctors probably were more likely to be adminstering morphine in larger and larger doses in order to alleviate the children’s worsening pain.

One in eight parents in the study (13%) said that they had considered requesting ending the life of their child, and 9% said that they had that discussion with the caregiver. The parents of five children said that they had explicitly asked their doctor to carry out euthanasia, and the parents of three said that their doctor had carried it out using morphine.

Dr Douglas Diekema, medical ethicist at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, said that the results of the study are not surprising. “I have no doubt that in a small number of cases, some physicians might cooperate with a parent’s desire to see a child’s suffering ended. This might include giving a drug for sedation or pain control that also suppresses the drive to breathe.” He added, “Most physicians don’t intentionally push that drug to the point of stopping a child’s breathing, but some may be comfortable not intervening if a child stops breathing in the course of treating him or her for discomfort”. ~ AP, Mar 2

Jared Yee
palliative care