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Who has the right to decide, Doctors or Parents?

For, By Ashley Boyle

The decision to turn off someone’s life support is hardly a straight forward one. Ending just one person’s life has an effect on several groups of people, not only the patient. Ultimately, the person suffering has to be the focus of the decision, and if they are in deep pain or unresponsive, the necessary procedures should be considered to put them at rest.

Isaiah Haastrup, an 11 month old child, suffered from very serious brain damage after being deprived of oxygen at birth. Doctors have said whilst he is intensely disabled, they believe he can still feel pain, and wish to turn the baby’s life support machine off. His parents, however feel that he should be kept alive on the machine, going against the doctor’s advice. The life of this child has impacted several people, mostly the parents. But ultimately the evaluation made by doctors had Isaiah’s best interests at heart.

The parents have taken this decision to court with the hope that the judge’s decision means their son will be kept on the ventilator which is sustaining his life. Whilst Isaiah has not lived a long life, doctors are hopeful that in the future Isaiah’s parents will be at peace with the fact that their son’s suffering will be no more.

Similarly, if a patient’s long-term suffering has become unbearable, an individual should be given the choice to end the pain with euthanasia. Those that have suffered all their life may eventually reach a point where they are in so much pain they simply do not want to live anymore. In another respect, those who used to live a healthy and happy life may now, due to unfortunate circumstances, find themselves physically or mentally disabled, leaving sufferers in a position which prevents them from doing the things they once loved. Whilst the condition may not shorten their life, it will inevitably be different. The drastic change, whilst some may embrace and cope, could prove to be too much for an individual, leading to depression and henceforth, thoughts about ending their life.

Tony Nicklinson suffered from ‘locked in’ syndrome after a stroke in 2005. After being refused the right to die, Nicklinson starved himself and consequently died of pneumonia in 2012. This example illustrates how individuals who have been denied the right to die peacefully and painlessly will take matters into their own hands. Self-harming in this way is long and painful both physically and emotionally, draining the individual, friends and family. Knowing that the one you love is putting themselves through this process and is helpless when it comes to their own decisions is heart breaking. Sufferers should not need to travel to another country for treatment or contemplate suicide, they should be given the right to end their suffering at home in a dignified manner surrounded by those who they love.

Against, By Eizzy Awogu

To the heartbreak of his ever-hopeful parents, the London high court judge Mr. Justice MacDonald has ruled with ‘profound sadness’ that life-sustaining support can now be withdrawn for 11-month-old baby Isaiah Haastrup. Due to a ruptured uterus and a premature cesarean section, the birth of Isaiah was fraught with medical complications and Isaiah suffered ‘catastrophic’ brain damage due to an extended period of oxygen deprivation at birth. As a result, Isaiah was born on February 18th, 2017 with no audible heartbeat, respiration, activity or muscle tone. He currently remains in a low-level state of consciousness.

However, the case of Isaiah may not simply be an instance of unavoidable misfortune but one of abject negligence. According to Mr. Haastrup ‘there have been failings’ from the offset and ‘but for them [Kings College Hospital] Isaiah would be home’. The parents have ensured that a ‘negligence case’ is underway in order to further investigate issues surrounding Isaiah’s care thus far. The devastating news that their fight for the life of their son had taken a fatal blow upon the judge’s ruling was not enough for the parents to give up on their son. Following the ruling, Mr. Haastrup said ‘we will speak to the lawyers’, and along with Takesha Thomas (Isaiah’s mother), move forward in the fight for the life of their beloved child.

Cases like this show just how precious life is, especially that of an innocent child who is yet to experience the world and all it has to offer. The strength of Isaiah’s parents is inspirational as is the relentless perseverance they have shown while battling for their son’s interests against the odds. Understandably, the topic of life-limiting illness and life support termination is one of great sensitivity and controversy. However, the miracle of Isaiah’s sustained life despite the enormous adversities he has faced at the tender age of 11 months is something to marvel.

It must be noted that advancements in science and healthcare have progressed incredibly within recent years. In 2017 alone, the world saw massive medical breakthroughs such as the development of synthetic blood, (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy treatments for Leukaemia (improving the 5-year survival rate of child acute lymphocytic leukemia to a whopping 85%) and ultrasound therapy as a potential cure of Alzheimer’s disease. Who knows what medical sensations 2018 will bring with it. With this level of scientific growth happening before our eyes, providing such a significant beacon of hope to those who desperately search for a reason to fight, it is easy to see why many would be opposed to terminating life-sustaining treatments, or simply give up and regarding certain medical cases as hopeless.

Unfortunately, the battle for Isaiah’s continued intensive care has not been left in his hands or in the hands of his devoted parents but in the hands of specialists at King’s College Hospital who have deemed further intensive care treatment ‘futile, burdensome and not in his best interests’. One can only hope now that any further efforts of Mr. Haastrup and Tekesha Thomas are fruitful, for the sake of their baby son.

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