Friday, March 13, 2009

Quebec couple sues Montreal Children's hospital for not dehydrating their child to death

A CTV news article is reporting that a Quebec couple has launched a lawsuit against Montreal Children's Hospital for not removing fluids and food from their baby (Phebe) who was born with significant disabilities.

This story appears to be a case whereby the hospital had originally agreed to remove all medical treatment and care from Phebe, but then the ethics committee reversed the decision to dehydrate Phebe to death. Phebe is now almost 18 months old.

The facts of this case appear fairly clear. Phebe was born with significant disabilities and the doctors thought that she was better off dead. Since the ethics committee recognized that Phebe was not dying, and because they didn't believe that she was better off dead, they decided to continue to provide her basic care.

The sad reality is that the doctors originally suggested that Phebe could be dehydrated to death, even though it appears clear that she was not dying.

Remember: Nowhere in the article does it suggest that the hospital provided anything more than basic care for Phebe. Therefore, she was not dying and she did not need medical treatment only care.

Unless other information exists - I would like to congratulate the ethics committee for making the correct decision and I think the judge should dismiss the case. If the judge decides that the child was better off dead, the precedent will enforce a situation whereby a physician and/or hospital will be forced to deny basic care, including fluids and food, to children, who are not otherwise dying.

Considering the law concerning substitute decision making, such a court decision would possibly force a physician and/or hospital to deny basic care, including fluids and food from an incompetent adult who is not otherwise dying, simply because the substitute decision maker wanted that person to die, and not be a continued burden on their time.

The Judge should consider that fact that a physician and hospital is not obligated to provide medical treatment or care that is deemed to be futile. In the same way a physician and hospital should not be obligated to dehydrate people, who are not otherwise dying to death.

Those readers of my blog who think that my concerns that people with disabilities are directly threatened by euthanasia and assisted suicide is reactionary. Well consider the fact. Phebe's doctor originally thought that Phebe was better off dead because of her disabilities. Society needs to protect people with disabilities not dehydrate them to death.

Finally, to cause a person, who is not otherwise dying, to die by dehydration is euthanasia because the omission is intentionally done to cause the death of the person, and the person dies of dehydration and not an underlying illness. In other words, death is directly and intentionally caused by the decision to dehydrate the person who is not otherwise dying.

The article stated:
In November 2007, Marie-Eve Laurendeau gave birth to Phebe Mantha at LaSalle Hospital.

Due to complications at birth, Phebe was transferred to Montreal Children's Hospital in critical condition and kept on life support.

Laurendeau and Phebe's father, Stephane Mantha, say doctors told them at that time that their daughter had little chance she'd survive.

If she did survive, doctors said she would probably be deaf, blind and may need to be institutionalized.

The couple was given the option to withdraw Phebe's life support and to withdraw artificial feeding.

They said they agreed to withdraw respiratory support and later, at the suggestion of doctors, to withdraw the artificial feeding.

"They say they thought that if there was never going to be quality of life for their baby girl then why let her suffer," CTV Montreal's Daniele Hamamdjian reported Friday after the parents held a press conference.

However, the hospital's ethics committee met and reversed the parent's decision without their consent or permission from a court.

After two-and-a-half months, Phebe was still alive and the hospital told the parents to take their child home or they'd place her in protective custody, Hamamdjian said.

Now, 15 months later, Laurendeau has been forced to quit her job to take care of Phebe full time.

"They say they have no support and are living on one income," Hamamdjian said.

The couple's lawyer says the hospital violated Quebec law and that only the court should have the power to overrule the couple's decision.

A spokesperson for Montreal Children's Hospital refused to comment saying the matter was before the courts.

Link to the original article:


Tammy (UWO) said...

Hey Alex,

I just saw this on the 11pm news and was LIVID.

Removal of ventilation is one thing, the baby would be dying of natural causes....but the sweet child breathed on her own!

As you said, removal of artificial feeding IS euthanasia. Food & Water is a basic necessity of life! Removing them is neglect, worthy of being charged if you ask me.

I'm thankful that the Ethics Committee stood up for this little angel.

She looks happy, is otherwise healthy with some disabilities it appears (feeding through stomach).

The parents were offered to relinquish custody to Children Protective Services. They refused, therefore they should raise their child. The hospital should not have to front this bill! Disabled babies are also blessings!

Kari said...

I don't get it?? We have Alheimer's patients being kept alive because they didn't make a living will stating otherwise. People living without dignity being force fed and diaper changed by strangers. They don't even know who they were anymore! But by LAW without a living will..... So how can this even happen???

Anonymous said...

so why are we killing children.... dont you think this is wrong in all ways possible... these parents should have there fluids removed...

Alex Schadenberg said...

It is always wrong to directly and intentionally dehydrate to death a person who is not otherwise dying.

hui said...

Yo, MUHC has real bad judgement: can it be the baby's foster parent for ever? Please respect parents' choice... Anyway, his hospital has had very bad reputation for years and it's time to get punished, wait a second, who's gonna pay if the couple wins? Us...taxpayers, right? So close this hospital or let it go under.

Alex Schadenberg said...

The real issue is that the parents were first told by their physicians that they could dehydrate the baby to death, and later the ethics committee said that dehydrating the baby to death was unethical.

It is more likely that the doctors were presenting the parents with a worst case scenario and the parents agreed to dehydration because they believed that the child would be so disabled that it was better off dead.

The reality is that we need to congratulate the ethics committee for intervening.

Anonymous said...

In hospitals they do pretty much what they want. The big question here, is and it is a legal question: Did those parents have informed consent? I don't believe that for a minute. Was the decision made by a doctor without the parent's consent and told after the fact? We don't know. It is definitely a staff member of the medical team who made the decision and informed the parents.

Parents are rarely in a position to make those decisions. They have no previous experience with this sort of thing and they don't know what questions to ask. But you are always intitled to get a second opinion or to get a consultation with specialists to the medical case.
This case is difficult to make judgement on , because we know nothing of the medical condition in this case. This being said, I know there are many cases where very sick children ended up having a normal life.