The issue of when to cease life-supporting medical treatment — and whether it should be done over the objections of patients/families (Futile Care Theory) — are among the most important bioethical issues we face today. But surely, such questions should be approached as a general matter — not focused against a subset of patients. But that is precisely what was done in the Journal of Medical Ethics — which brought us advocacy for “After-Birth Abortion — in which pediatric ICU doctors target Christian parents for secularist overrides of their medical decision-making rights.

It is worth noting that all the fuss concerns only 17 out of a total of 203 cases reviewed covering three years, involving intractable disagreement about end-of-life decisions. Of these, a little more than half (11) involved explicitly religious claims. And of those, only 5 were unresolved (plus a sixth that went to court), all Christian, meaning treatment continued when doctors wanted it stopped based on parents hope for divine intervention. Thus from about 3% of all cases over three years, the article attacks the rights of Christian parents to make decision treatments for their children.

First, the writers — quoting atheist proselytizer Richard Dawkins — claim that children of religious parents should not be considered religious, more than implying that their “beliefs” should be considered those of the secular state. From, “Should Religious Beliefs Be Allowed to Stonewall a Secular Approach to Withdrawing and Withholding Treatment in Children?” (August 13, 2012 as 10.1136/medethics-2011-100104 — no link):

In many cases, the children about whom the decisions are being made are too young to subscribe to the religious beliefs held by their parents, yet we continue to respect the parents beliefs. Children are currently seen as having a religion by virtue of their parents but it could be argued that children have no religious faith until such time as they are deemed mature enough to make decisions around consent. As Dawkins suggests, should we refer to the child of Christian parents rather than a “Christian child?” We suggest it is time to have a default position in that it is presumed that parental religion is not a determining factor in decision-making for the child until the child is “Glick competent” to choose to consent to be part of the parent’s religion; thereby recognizing that religion is important to the parents but should not influence the management of their child.

Talk about an attack on parental rights and Christianity! If the parental values can be swept aside, which values should apply? Why the secular majority’s! Why? Because we have to overcome the existing “imperialism” of familiar faiths:

So in this alleged secular society in the UK, we have a tendency to be more accepting of some religions and their practices more readily without questioning them. Professionals or secularists within the UK or Western world will accept these religious tenets more sympathetically if they came from a faith they recognise, or indeed may once have been part of, more so than other newer religions. This prejudice favouring traditional religions demonstrates a degree of imperial ethics . . . Sometimes, while not based on established jurisprudence, the perception is that we are prepared to challenge in the courts a newer religion with different belief structures but are prepared to accept the more established religions.

Note the last bit is merely an unsupported assertion, not a fact-based conclusion. So, to overcome this supposed prejudice in favor of familiar religions, we have to allow secularism to have the final say when to cease life-sustaining treatment in a way akin to forcing Jehovah’s Witness children to receive life-saving blood transfusions:

We propose that it would be better to have a default position as there is for the Jehovah Witness solution. This would not preclude the expectation of providing expert opinion and evidence to support both sides — there would just be an expectation of an accelerated process; it would simply become the default position in religious disagreements on end-of-life management, as it is for refusing consent for transfusion, which could also result in death. The obvious difference being the former is seeking a default position which will result in death whereas the latter is seeking to preserve life. However, we would argue that both are attempting to protect the child’s best interests. The issues revolve around the balance of sanctity and quality of life versus unbearable suffering.

Suffering can be alleviated. This is really about anti Christianity — and money!

One further argument for such an approach and one we do not shy away from is the resources used in maintaining children in this setting. While we feel the best interests of the child in question are paramount, the interests of society, including the other children who might have used this valuable resource, cannot be ignored, especially when non-medically indicated painful and futile therapies are continued on children due to the expectation of miraculous intervention.

And thus the life-extending ultimate purpose of medicine — when that is wanted — and intrinsic human equality are tossed aside in the name of imposing the new quality of life ethos onto medicine and society.

Remember, this hue and cry to suppress Christian values in end-of-life decision making concerns only 5 out of 203 studied cases. To me, that means these children are the pretext for imposing secularist cultural hegemony over the entire medical system, demonstrating that tolerance and diversity cease to matter once the secularists think they are firmly in control.

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Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC