British doctors behind a new study say that many cases in which parents insist on continuing treatment even though medical professionals believe the child has no hope of recovery are motivated by religious beliefs and the hope for divine intervention.
In a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, doctors from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London asked for lawmakers to change the current British legal system to allow physicians to have greater influence in cases with terminally ill patients, adding parents’ religious beliefs should not be a “determining factor.” Researchers argued parents waiting for a miracle are putting their children through unnecessary and painful treatments.
“Spending a lifetime attached to a mechanical ventilator having every bodily function supervised and sanitized by a carer or relative, leaving no dignity or privacy to the child or adult has been argued as inhumane,” the researchers wrote. “We suggest it is time to reconsider current ethical and legal structures and facilitate rapid default access to courts in such situations when the best interests of the child are compromised in expectation of the miraculous.”
The doctors took a closer look at 203 cases at Great Ormond Street Hospital which involved end-of-life decisions for parents over a three-year period. In 186 cases, parents agreed with medical professionals that further pointless, aggressive treatment should be removed.
In the remaining 17 cases, however, parents insisted that medical treatment be provided even if health professionals advised against it. The doctor’s rulings were in accordance with the guideline set forth by the British Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health guidance, and were based on the fact that medical evidence suggested the benefits derived from continued procedures would not improve the case and may increase the patient’s suffering.
Eleven of these cases were due to parents arguing that treatment should not be stopped because there was always a chance of divine intervention or a miracle, and the opinions of the doctor were negative and wrong. Parents from various faiths including Islam, Judaism and Roman Catholicism argued against ending treatment, with Christian fundamentalist evangelicals from Africa being the most common objectors.
In five of the 11 cases, parents were finally convinced to terminate unnecessary care after religious leaders from outside the hospital were called in…
Read more: CBS News