The Story of Emmie-Rose

The Story of Emmie-Rose

Speaking of prayers for babies, 23 Weeks, is the blog of the parents of Emmie-Rose, a little girl who was born on July 15 at only 23 weeks gestation. She has been fighting for life ever since, but at the beginning of this month, they found that she’s missing her intestine. Emmie-Rose’s parents have been looking for options or even a chance to let their daughter live as long as possible, but the hospital (in Cleveland, I gather from context) is washing their hands of her.

On September 3, they told the parents that their daughter would only live a few more days, but she’s still holding on. The hospital’s “ethics” committee met and determined that since the girl is going to die anyway that they would withhold further food and blood transfusions. But if she’s going to die anyway, why hasten her death? They’re also obstructing efforts by the parents to find another hospital to take Emmie-Rose by telling those hospitals they shouldn’t. And even though Emmie-Rose’s doctors want to try new treatments the “ethics” committee won’t let them. This is what the commmittee said:

ETHICS COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

Since physicians have determined that the patients condition is terminal and incurable, further medical interventions other than comfort measures are futile and transfer to another facility does not serve the best interest of this child. Furthermore, since continued medical interventions offer no reasonable medical benefit to the patient and such interventions serve only to postpone the moment of death, the treatment team is under no moral obligation to continue life-sustaining treatment. The parent’s right to seek a second opinion has been met. Since it has been determined that no additional interventions can be offered to this child, there is no benefit in transferring her to another facility.

In other words, they have sentenced their child to die based on their own “infallible” judgment. Why not try? The baby is living and fighting? Why not even carry with normal measures such as food and blood transfusions? What do they have to lose ... except time and money?

Please pray for Emmie-Rose, her parents, and the hospital administrators. The culture of death has sunk its claws in very deep and this baby’s life is at stake.

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6 comments
  • Dom,
    There is a huge difference between discontinuing blood transfusions and discontinuing nutrition. As a physician, I can tell you that there comes a time when further medical intervention is futile. Blood transfusions can fall into that category. Food and hydration however, is normal palliative care. Beware an ethics committee that lumps these two together. Actually, it is probably a good idea to beware many ethics committees. They are part and parcel of the hospital administration that is often more concerned with the health of the hospital bottom line than with the health and well being of the patients.

    I will certainly be praying for Emmie-Rose and her family.

  • It’s the question of the determination of futility that I wonder about. If she’s surviving beyond their own estimates, shuldn’t they continue whatever treatments they were giving her as long as she remains strong? If she’s not declining, I would think transfusions would not be burdensome to anyone, least of all the patients.

    We’re all terminally ill; we’re all going to die someday and in the end all medical treatment is futile, in that it can’t prevent death eventually. So as long as death isn’t imminent, why stop treatment?

  • As my father always says (in a deadpan tone) whenever some new medical scare comes around, “Well, you know, breathing air has proven to be 100% fatal, in all cases.”

  • I think that a treatment that does not lead to a cure, but nevertheless leads to a stability of the condition is not extraordinary, but ordinary care. After all, there are many people who live with chronic and terminal conditions for whom treatments provide stability, not cures.

    For that matter, we don’t have a cure for cancer, but continue to provide treatment to sufferers.

  • I’m not a medical professional so won’t get into the technical aspects, but I need to point out that from a Catholic ethical standpoint, it is irrelevant whether the nutrition is intravenous or oral. It is still considered normal care.

    And I’m a little put off by the characterization of Emmie Rose’s parents as selfish and desiring to prolong her suffering. Unless they are monsters, they desired no such thing.

    What they wanted was more time with their daughter and another chance, perhaps for a miracle. Perhaps that wasn’t realistic, but don’t demonize them for it.

    I can imagine the work in the NICU is difficult and often thankless, but I do thank you. Just don’t let it harden you either.

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