criticism, questions & the ending of life

Some situations just make me pause. The circumstances are hard. There is no criticism, no judgment… just hard. But I admit, from afar, it’s often easier to criticize one or more of the key players rather than standing back, asking more questions, recognizing that our judgment is secondary to our prayers.

In a story covered last week by a wide array of media— from CBS to People Magazine — note the following circumstance regarding an especially fluid situation, as reported by Great Britain’s “The Guardian”:

“Doctors can withdraw life support for an 11-month-old boy against the wishes of his parents, a judge has ruled.

Specialists at King’s College hospital in London had argued that giving further intensive care treatment to Isaiah Haastrup was “futile” and not in his best interests. They say he is profoundly disabled but believe he might be able to feel pain.

Isaiah’s mother, Takesha Thomas, and father, Lanre Haastrup, both 36 and from London, wanted treatment to continue. Neither were in court for the handing down of the judgment.

In his judgment, Mr. Justice MacDonald said: ‘Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective… I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued. That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.’

The judge said it was a ‘grave and difficult case’ and discontinuing the treatment would, on the evidence before him, ‘lead to Isaiah’s death.’ There was ‘a stark difference’ between the views of the medical professionals and parents regarding Isaiah’s medical condition and prognosis, he said.

He said the parents’ evidence on Isaiah’s level of responsiveness was ‘both understandably and sadly heavily influenced by the flattering voice of hope’ and was not reliable evidence. ‘I am satisfied on the evidence before the court that Isaiah has no prospect of recovery or improvement given the severe nature of the cerebral atrophy in his brain.’

He was satisfied Isaiah would remain ‘ventilator dependent and without meaningful awareness of his surroundings,’ adding: ‘Having as I must Isaiah’s best interests as my paramount consideration, I am entirely satisfied that it is no longer in Isaiah’s best interest to receive life-sustaining treatment.’

The judge paid tribute to the devotion of Isaiah’s parents. ‘It is trite but true to observe that the court cannot imagine the emotional pain that the conclusion of the court will cause to the parents. It is my hope that, in due course, the parents will be able to derive some small measure of comfort from the knowledge that they have done all that they can for their much-loved and cherished son to seek an alternative outcome for Isaiah’…

The specialists and Isaiah’s parents disagreed over his level of responsiveness. His parents said they believe he responded to his mother’s face and touch…”

And so in my desire to ask more questions than assert any claims of knowing best, I wonder:

Who does know best?
Is hope a valid enough defense?
Can hope be reliable?
What is the meaning of “in his best interests”?
Who gets to decide those best interests?
Who would pay for the infant’s continued care?
Does money matter?
Should it matter?
Can we trust the giver and taker-away of life?


Am I more prone to criticism of any involved than asking good questions from afar?