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FWD Haunted mother who backs mercy killing

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  • Keith Armstrong
    JONNY KENNEDY lived and died in agony. From the moment he was born until his premature death at the age of 36 he was covered with blisters and sores, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2006
      JONNY KENNEDY lived and died in agony. From the moment he was born
      until his premature death at the age of 36 he was covered with
      blisters and sores, the result of a rare genetic skin condition called
      epidermolysis bullosa (EB). The mildest touch caused his skin to bleed
      and sheer off.

      When he died of skin cancer on September 26, 2003, his mother Edna,
      who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, admitted that her primary reaction
      to his death was relief, not grief.

      In the Netherlands doctors are permitted to carry out mercy killings
      of babies born with disabilities including severe forms of EB and
      spina bifida. Now a professional medical body in Britain says that
      society should consider "active euthanasia" here for the sickest babies.

      Kennedy says she is instinctively opposed to euthanasia but after
      almost four decades of caring for Jonny, she believes it should be an
      option in some circumstances.

      "Jonny actually contemplated suicide at the age of 18, unbeknown to
      me. But, as a mother, it was much more difficult. I remember the
      doctor said, `Just leave him at the hospital, forget about him'. But I
      couldn't have done that — it wouldn't have been in my nature. He was
      my responsibility. I had to deal with him," Kennedy said.

      "I never thought about euthanasia, but it did cross my husband's mind.
      He offered when Jonny was little to put a pillow to his head and end
      the suffering. I couldn't condone it.

      "But knowing what I know now, I couldn't in all conscience bring a
      child into the world who was going to suffer like that. In extremely
      controlled circumstances, where the baby is really suffering, it
      should be an option for the mother."

      Five years ago Dr Pieter Sauer, now head of paediatrics at the
      University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands, agreed to the
      mercy killing of a baby boy born at the hospital with EB. The infant
      was in constant pain but, because his skin was so tender, his parents
      could not touch or lift him to offer comfort because even the most
      gentle contact increased the agony. They could only watch helplessly
      as their baby, covered from head to toe in layers of bandages,
      suffered. They appealed to Sauer for help and the child died at three
      months old.

      Sauer insists the killing offered relief to the infant, his parents
      and hospital staff.

      "The parents came to me and said, `Please help us because this is
      suffering without any purpose. In no way is this in the interests of
      this child'," he said.

      Every day in hospitals across Britain doctors and parents are faced
      with fraught decisions about how far they should go to keep alive
      severely disabled babies. At the moment medics can offer high-tech
      intensive care or, if everyone agrees that it is pointless to give the
      infant invasive treatment that would be unlikely to succeed, the baby
      is fed and kept warm but allowed to pass away in their own time.

      While raising the issue of euthanasia of newborns, the Royal College
      of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has stopped short of specifying
      the level of disability which would justify it.

      However, the case of Charlotte Wyatt, the severely handicapped infant
      whose parents fought a series of lengthy court battles to stop doctors
      letting her die, crystallises many of the dilemmas.

      Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St Mary's hospital where
      Charlotte is a patient, won a High Court ruling, against her parents'
      wishes, to allow doctors not to resuscitate her. Doctors told the
      court that ventilating Charlotte, who was born at 26 weeks, would be
      "purposeless and intolerable to her". They also said that Charlotte
      was in constant pain and would be unable to have any quality of life
      (although an independent medical report later disputed this), and
      that she was unlikely to make it through the winter of 2004.

      Charlotte has defied the predictions and, at the age of three, is well
      enough to leave hospital. However, the burden of caring for her played
      a part in the break-up of her parents' marriage and she will not be
      able to leave hospital until a foster family is found for her.

      Advanced medical treatment means that babies born after only 23 weeks
      can be saved but doctors point out that many live with severe
      disabilities, creating a lifelong burden for their parents and
      considerable costs to the taxpayer. A study, EPICure, led by
      researchers at Nottingham University, found that by the age of six,
      only 20% had no disabilities.

      The cost of treating very premature babies is high. A neonatal
      intensive care bed costs about £1,000 a day and exctremely premature
      babies can require intensive care for four months.

      The Sunday Times November 05, 2006
      Sarah-Kate Templeton and Steven Swinford

      more goto:

      Read the RCOG's full submission here
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