Ethicists attack religious parents for refusing to pull the plug

A notorious bioethics journal has published a piercing attack on the right of Christians and other religious believers to make crucial end-of-life medical decisions for their own children. The title — “Should Religious Beliefs be Allowed to Stonewall a Secular Approach to Withdrawing and Withholding Treatment in Children?” — reveals the game that is afoot. The article is published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, which also permitted advocacy for “after-birth abortion” in its pages. The article’s authors blame “fundamentalist Christian” parents for causing their children to “suffer unnecessarily” by refusing to remove life support.

The international media was quick to pick up on the blatant religion-bashing. CBS News reported:

British doctors behind a new study say that many cases in which parents insist on continuing treatment even though medical professionals believe the child has no hope of recovery are motivated by religious beliefs and the hope for divine intervention.

International Business Times put it this way:

A study has raised concerns that religious faith is causing parents to insist on the continuation of aggressive treatment on a child who is unlikely to recover.

Newsday amplified the theme:

Despite overwhelming medical evidence supporting the withdrawal of intensive care in extremely ill children who are unlikely to survive, parents who have deeply held religious beliefs may hold out for a miracle, a small study has found.

In actuality, there was no “study.” Indeed, the “ethics approval” note at the end of the paper states: “Not really a ‘study’ but a review of cases referred, and no identifiable clinical details provided.” In other words, contrary Newsday, we don’t know if there was “overwhelming medical evidence” supporting the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, nor whether the cases were “hopeless.” We are only told that the children had been admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit presenting with “serious and burdensome” medical conditions that resulted in disputes between parents and doctors over protracted intensive care.

Not only that, but the only cases the authors reviewed involved religion as a “non-negotiable aspect” of the discussions — meaning situations involving non-religiously-based impasses were not scrutinized. And get this: The headlines about heartless religious parents forcing helpless children to suffer in the name of their faith involved a mere six cases that took place over a three-year period.