The death by intentional dehydration of Nancy Fitzmaurice, a 12 year-old child with significant disabilities in the UK, is clearly a case of euthanasia by dehydration and not a case of withdrawing medical treatment.
I have a relative who lives with a very similar condition to Nancy, a condition that developed in a similar manner.
The British case, that became known when an article was published in the Daily Mirror on October 25, 2014, is based on a decision by Justice Eleanor King in August, to approve the withdrawal of hydration and nutrition from Nancy.
This case set a terrible and dangerous precedent as this was the first time that a person, who was breathing on her own and not on life support or suffering from a terminal illness, died by dehydration with the approval of the court. Euthanasia is the intentional action or omission of an action to cause death, where the death is the direct result, for reasons of “mercy.”
Since Nancy was not otherwise dying, and since the withdrawal of hydration and nutrition was done to cause the death of Nancy by dehydration and since she died by dehydration, this is clearly a case of euthanasia by dehydration.
This decision differs from the decision to withdraw hydration and nutrition from someone who is dying and nearing death.
This was a terrible legal precedent that approved death by dehydration for someone who was not otherwise dying, this decision also has significant negative ramifications for people with disabilities. Nancy was dehydrated to death, not because she was dying or nearing death, but because she was living with disabilities and her life was deemed to be “Not Worth Living.”
The fact that Nancy lived for 14 days before dying from dehydration is a clear illustration of the difference between this decision to cause death and the withdrawal of hydration and nutrition to allow someone to die a natural death.
The disabilities rights group, The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) condemned the British judge’s landmark decision, calling it an “extremely troubling legal precedent.”
In their press release, ASAN pointed out that the policy represented euthanasia and it:
“targets vulnerable people, particularly when it is applied to children.”
“Euthanasia of people with disabilities is an extremely dangerous and wholly inappropriate”
The ASAN press release also criticized the media coverage of the case. They stated:
“extraordinarily irresponsible, implying that the child’s disability should justify a decision that her life was unworthy of living.”
The group concluded that:
“People with disabilities deserve better”
“Weakening laws that protect the sick, disabled and elderly would put vulnerable people at risk.”
“Watching my daughter suffer for days while they cut off her fluids was unbearable,”
“She went in pain. It will stay with me forever. Although I will live with the guilt forever, I know I have done everything I can for her and she is at peace.”