The Religious Parents Who 'Let Sick Children Suffer for Their Beliefs'

Article excerpt

Byline: Daily Mail Reporter

PARENTS hoping for a 'miraculous intervention' prompted by deeply held religious beliefs are leading to very sick children being subjected to futile care and needless suffering, a study suggests.

The authors, including children's intensive care doctors and a hospital chaplain, say religious beliefs provide vital support to many parents whose children are seriously ill, as well as to the staff who care for them.

They have become concerned, however, that deeply held beliefs are increasingly leading parents to insist on the continuation of aggressive treatment that ultimately is not in the best interests of the poorly child.

And they say it is time to review the current ethics and legality of such cases.

They base their conclusions on a review of 203 cases which involved 'end of life' decisions over a threeyear period. In 186 of these cases, agreement was reached between the parents and healthcare profession-als about withdrawing aggressive, but ultimately futile, treatment.

In the remaining 17 cases extended discussions with the medical team had failed to resolve differences of opinion with the parents over the best way to continue to care for the child in question.

The parents had insisted on continuing full active medical treatment, while doctors had advocated withdrawing or withholding further intensive care on the basis of the overwhelming medical evidence.

Eleven of these cases (65 per cent) involved directly expressed religious claims that intensive care should not be stopped because of the expectation of divine intervention and a complete cure, together with the conviction that the opinion of the medical team was overly pessimistic and wrong.

Various faiths were represented among the parents, including Christian fundamentalism, Islam, Judaism, and Roman Catholicism.

Five of the 11 cases were resolved after meeting with the relevant religious leaders outside the hospital, and intensive care was withdrawn in a further case after a High Court order. …