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Monday, January 25, 2010

Errors in Fact: Baby Isaiah Updated

If one thing characterizes this blog I hope it is my passion. I passionately believe in disability rights. There is no doubt in my mind that disability rights and civil rights are one in the same. This passion is great but has a down side--sometimes I let my passion get ahead of me. I did this in my last post and as a result made some errors in fact. Two people were kind enough to point this out--Sam Sansalone and Barbara Farlow. Barbara Farlow left a long comment on my last post I urge everyone to read. She has also been kind enough to communicate with me via email. So what errors did I make?

I implied Barbara Farlow's daughter Annie died in the United States. This is wrong. Farlow has written about her experiences in Canadian and medical ethics journals. I read an interview with Farlow and articles she wrote, one that was published in the Hastings Center Report. I incorrectly assumed she was an American. Farlow has much to say, all of which is critically important, about her experiences with the medical establishment, human rights, and the legal system. Farlow is seeking to bring public awareness to a problem that is incredibly complex. But I would argue that complexity is a red herring. The fact is children, even those with what are deemed "lethal anomalies" deserve medical care, care that is in their best interests. This is what Farlow sought for her daughter and what every parent expects when dealing with a sick child. Based on what I have read Farlow's daughter needlessly suffered and as she wrote in her comment to my post " this reality must set off major alarm bells". I hear those bells loud and clear and can only hope through her efforts the medical establishment will as well.

I referred to Sam Sansalone and his daughter Katya who had Trisomy 13 like Farlow's daughter. I quoted Sansalone and those quotes came from Life Site News. While the quotes are correct I did not mean to imply Sansalone was speaking on behalf of the Family to Family Connections at Alberta Children's Hospital. Sansalone was speaking personally as the father of Katya. Sansalone is Co-Chair of the Advisory Committee to Family to Family Connections but he was not in any way representing the views of this group. I apologize for this error. I also need to point out that Sansalone did not claim that a child with or without Trisomy 13 is denied medical treatment or access to health care in the United States. The suggestion that what Sansalone and Farlow respective daughter's experienced takes place in other countries is my opinion. An opinion, that I will seek to support in future entries. But this contention is mine not Sansalone.

I spent a great deal of time this weekend thinking about Farlow and Sansalone. I remain as impassioned and troubled as I was last week. Here we have educated, dedicated, and caring parents that wanted what was best for their respective children. The medical system failed them and in my opinion did so in spectacular fashion. Both have become fierce advocates as a result in the hope no other children will experience a similar fate. I wish them well and hope to remain in contact with them as they have much to say. Frankly, I think the entire system inside and outside of the medical establishment must be changed. We need to embrace what children, all children, have to offer the world. We do not get to pick and choose who we decide treat. If a child, a so called normal child, receives routine medical care than what does it say about us as when we withhold the exact same treatment from child with profound disabilities. Judgments are being made and I would contend they are based less on science than an inherent bias against the most vulnerable and dare I say costly humans. The problem is not a matter of semantics but rather life and death--and I am not being melodramatic--just ask Sansalone and Farlow.

Two thoughts have looped through my mind the last few days. First, I wish an organization like Family to Family Connections existed when I was a sick child. I am sure my parents, and especially myself, would not have felt as isolated and alone. I surely would not have been as scared as I was when I approached major surgeries and painful procedures. I am sure my parents would have benefited from talking with other parents that were going through a comparable experience with their child. Second, I admire the determination and courage it takes to assert one's self as Sansalone and Farlow have done. I sincerely hope they have a strong bond as I suspect they do. But what I worry about is the children that do not have outstanding parents. What happens to children that have Trisomy 13 or comparable condition whose parents are not as dedicated? What happens to children or those whose parents simply accept what their doctor suggest? Farlow wrote to me that in the 1960s, the veritable Dark Ages of neonatology, that 15% of children like her daughter lived beyond a year. Now, they quote 5% live to six months. Could it be these children are encountering a lethal form of discrimination? I cannot answer this question but it is one worth serious thought. Afterall a recent report I read in Pediatrics revealed neonatal nurses thought death was preferable to life with a profound physical and cognitive disabilities. And here is where I am not all that different from such children. I know there are people that see me and a few who tell me directly that they would prefer to be dead than use a wheelchair. This comment always leaves me speechless. What, I wonder, is the point of making such an observation? Surely asserting one's social superiority is a variable but far more is going on socially. The same can be said when it comes to the treatment of children with profound disabilities and I hope Farlow and Sansalone can make others think about this important subject.


Claire said...

I am currently reading a Canadian legal dissertation regarding involuntary sterilization in the disabled population. In reference to what you are writing about, note this:

"Even though parents are invested with the authority to consent to their
children's medical treatment, this power is not absolute and the state will be allowed
to intervene when necessary.372...a child, once found in need of protection, will be temporarily removed from
his/her parent's authority and care to be placed under the custody of a welfare or
government agent who will thus be empowered to make the appropriate decision. A
child in need of protection is traditionally defined as
***A child in the care of a person who neglects or refuses to provide or obtain
proper medical, or other remedial care or treatment necessary for the health or
well-being of the child or refuses such care or treatment to be supplied to the
child when it is recommended by a duly qualified practitioner.374***
The Supreme Court of Canada, in the B. (R.) v. Children 's Aid Society of
Metropolitan Toronto375 case held that a child will legally be declared 'in need of
protection' not only where the refused treatment is life-saving but also when it is
aimed at the preservation of the child's well_being.376"

In light of this information, how is it that a parent's rights can be abrogated but the reverse isn't true...that a hospital has the right to refuse treatment? I would love to see some uber lawyer get this to court.

william Peace said...

Claire, The problem here is few if any families could ever follow through in the court of law without going bankrupt. Hospitals have teams of lawyers on retainer while families do not. I for one have little faith in the judicial system. Look at the Ashley case, the WPAS report signed by the hospital in Seattle amounted to little more than a white wash.