Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Euthanasia in Childhood and Infancy

In the practice of paediatric medicine there are two main areas in which eithanasia may be relevant-paediatric terminal illness and neonatal intensive care.

Paediatric terminal illness: the concious child.
Most conscious children requiring terminal care are cancer patients, but some have meningitis or other progressive conditions. Palliative care for these has recently received new emphasis, as expansion in the filed with specialised hospice provision for children has occurred. By contrast in Holland, where the euthanasia concept is widely accepted, there is no such specialist provision. Euthanasia is overtly perceived as the solution to these problems.

The emotional aspects of caring for a dying child are difficult for parents and for staff to handle, irrespective of the symptoms of the condition. Carers must consider the autonomy of children, as well as considering them as people who do have a right and a need to know what is happening to them in terms which they can understand. A child, like an adult has the right to have wishes, feelings and preferences and to express them.

It is responsible and necessary to give factual information to a child as much as to an adult, and experience has shown that children may handle the terminal care situation better than many adults. Family involvement, which includes siblings in decisions results in easier relationships and management of difficult situations. counselling of a whole family is often necessary and involvement of other children in family grief has a healing effect. Long family silence about a dead child is found to be common, but it may have a destructive effect.

Adequate symptom relief, sometimes self-administered and controlled by the child (who can become very skilled at it) and support for the family through the time of trauma, result in the elimination of the need for intentional killing.

The following websites have relevant information about this topic.
Terminal illness
Child Trust Fund
Facing Bereavement

The picture of the sick child was taken by Shainlee


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