This week: Where the State does have a role .
- DOMPOST: “Court rules to let child die in peace” – An urgent night court session upholds the decision by a seven year old boy’s mother and the hospital staff looking after him to allow him to die by not performing surgery…
THE PROBLEM: Should the state be able to force doctors and nurses to operate on a child dying of a hideously painful illness when the mother opposes such a decision?
THE DOCTOR SAYS: You can’t help but be deeply touched by the story of this poor child and his family. Both he and his brother were affected by a congenital terminal illness which caused increasing pain and stripped them of their dignity and all quality of life.
A court was convened to decide whether a decision by hospital staff not to operate on the seven year old boy, whose brother had already died of the disease (about which details have been suppressed), was tantamount to homicide.
I find it disturbing that a court should even be considering whether they can force a surgeon to operate on anyone, or charge him with homicide if he declines to operate and the patient then dies of natural causes. That makes the doctor a slave, with a gun to his head or whip to his back, his assets frozen and his liberty threatened by the State, if he doesn’t comply.
I have always maintained that a person should not be prosecuted for a decision not to act - unless that person is looking after a dependent child, and the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, warmth and nurturing) are deliberately withheld, causing objective harm to the child; or that person has contractual obligations to care for a person and fails to discharge their part of the contract.
In this case, the boy’s mother and hospital staff were all agreed that to operate on this boy would have prolonged an agonizing and inevitable death (not an easy decision to make), and the court eventually endorsed this decision.
Bravo to the boy’s mother and to the hospital staff who would all have been deeply affected by their experience looking after this child. It’s very sad that this boy and his brother suffered without reason. But there is no justice in Nature; that is a human concept, involving ethics and a sense of morality. That is why we sit above the other animals as masters of this planet.
“I have often wondered at the smugness at which people assert their right to enslave me, to
control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind — yet what is
it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands?”
- Dr Thomas Hendricks, in the novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand