The worst nightmare for any parent is the thought of losing a child. For Isaac and Rebecca May this nightmare has become a reality. After complications with their son, Isaiah’s, birth the May family has experienced one trial after another. For Isaiah’s grandmother and grandfather, Kathy and Bob Griffis, this nightmare began when Kathy received a phone call from her crying son who told her, “Mom, there are about ten doctors around his bed. I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
Isaiah was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck which depleted his oxygen supply long enough to cause serious brain damage. The day after Isaiah’s traumatic entrance into the world, Kathy stood with her children as the doctors at the University of Alberta Hospital informed them that their son’s brain damage was severe. Their diagnosis was that little Isaiah would never move or grow; that he was brain dead and would not survive.
All Isaiah’s family was looking for was hope. The first sign of hope came when Isaac saw his son move for the first time, raising both his arms a few inches above his bed and extending his fingers. Isaiah didn’t stop there. As time progressed, he continued to defy the odds, moving constantly. His pupils began to dilate. He is growing measurably, responding to sounds, opening his eyelids, making occasional sounds, and even sporadically breathing over his intubation. After all this progress, it was obviously a shock for the Mays when they received a letter from the hospital stating that because they did not believe Isaiah would survive, it was unethical to continue to keep him on life support.
After receiving a court injunction, the Mays have been given time by a judge to present medical experts who can testify to the progress Isaiah has made and his potential for continued progress.
United Families’ Stance
For the Mays, the main issue is to save the life of their little boy. But this case now appears to have the potential to set a precedent which could affect millions of lives all over the world. If the power to choose whether or not to remove baby Isaiah from life support is taken away from his parents and given to the government, the precedent would be set, granting government the ability to decide who should live and who should die. In a legal context, the government is placing a monetary value on the life of a child and replacing the parent’s rights and responsibilities to care for and nurture him. Government’s rationale for making these decisions would be vastly different from a set of caring parents. Costs of care, essentially placing a monetary value on life, become the ultimate interest of the bureaucracy.
Euthanasia is the act of denying treatment to, or putting someone to death through medical means. Targeting the weak, infirm, and disabled, those with a limited ability to fight for their own lives, the practice of euthanasia is only legal in two countries worldwide – Belgium and the Netherlands. But while advocates for the practice will argue that it is merciful, the truth shows us otherwise.
The practice of euthanasia distorts the relationship between doctors and patients. It allocates too much power to doctors who cannot accurately diagnose when a patient will die, but still have the power to choose to end life-saving care, or even directly end a patient’s life. In countries with socialized medical programs, it places even more power in the hands of government bureaucracies with budgetary and programmatic priorities to consider.
In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal for more than a decade, two government reports found that at least 26 percent of euthanasia cases where committed without the explicit consent of the patient and over 20 percent of those killed without consent were competent to make life and death decisions for themselves.
Escalating health care costs, coupled with growing elderly and disabled populations, set the stage for a culture of death eager to embrace alternatives to expensive, long-term medical care. The so-called “right to die” may soon become the “duty to die” as elderly, disabled, or depressed individuals are pressured or coerced into ending their lives. The move toward managed care also threatens to promote euthanasia as more and more doctors are offered financial incentives to decrease the number of health care dollars spent per patient. Belgium has considered legislation which would allow parents of children with incurable diseases to have a doctor kill their children.
If the authority to decide which lifesaving medical treatments are given is granted to corporations and governments, who value life based on dollars and cents rather intrinsic human value, and removed from parents, in consultation with medical experts who are trained to save and value life, then stories like that of baby Isaiah will become the norm of modern society. The power to decide any child’s future should be the sole responsibility of the parents.
United Families International is working tirelessly to help ensure that not only the rights of parents, but also the right to life, are protected and respected worldwide. Through educational and advocacy initiatives at the local, national, and international levels, UFI is fighting for families just like the Mays. Isaac and Rebecca May have a fundamental right as parents to make important decisions for their son. That right must not be taken by government fiat. Likewise, Isaiah May, and everyone else on the planet today, has a fundamental right to life that must not be surrendered to the interests of the culture of death.