In Spain, the parents of a severely disabled 12-year-old girl won the right to starve their daughter to death by taking away the food and water she was getting via a feeding tube. A week after depriving her of the nutrition she needed to survive, the young girl named Andrea Lago passed away.
“What I want for my daughter is for her to close her eyes and be able to say goodbye to her,” Andrea’s mother, Estela Ordoñez, said before her death. “We want a dignified death for our daughter.”
Andrea had been suffering from a rare degenerative neurological condition that doctors claimed she would not be able to recover from. Her parents said Andrea had been suffering from the illness since she was a baby and had been hospitalized for the past three months.
“Tess Ordóñez said her daughter was unable to speak, but that they were ‘communicating well with hand gestures,” one news report indicated.
Two weeks ago, Andrea’s health deteriorated and Andrea’s parents asked the hospital to remove her feeding tube. Her parents battled with the pediatrics unit of a hospital where Andrea was receiving care in an attempt to deprive her of food and water, thus ending her life.They argued that keeping Andrea on the feeding tube was causing her needless suffering.
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They said Andrea’s death “would be easier”, than her life had been.
Galician health chief, Rocio Mosquera, disagreed and said the hospital could not support her parents’ request for “active euthanasia.” Ordonez and Lago took their case to court and Mosquera was eventually fired from the position. The hospital, Santiago de Compostela, eventually altered its position and agreed to the request and withdrew the food and water on Monday.
By Friday, Andrea had died.
Spain allows what is termed passive euthanasia and the the debate over Andrea’s fate has sparked intense debate across the country.
Previous studies indicate that feeding tubes are often removed from patients without their consent.
A study in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that nearly 25% of patients denied tube-supplied food and water were dehydrated to death without consent of themselves or family. From the abstract:
Response rate was 58.4%. A decision to forgo ANH occurred in 6.6% of all deaths (4.2% withheld, 3.0% withdrawn). Being female, dying in a care home or hospital and suffering from nervous system diseases (including dementia) or malignancies were the most important patient-related factors positively associated with a decision to forgo ANH.
Physicians indicated that the decision to forgo ANH had had some life-shortening effects in 77% of cases. There had been no consultation with the patient in 81%, mostly due to incapacity (coma or dementia). The family, colleague physicians and nurses were involved in decision making in 76%, 41% and 62%, respectively.
As pro-life ethics Wesley Smith notes: “As we have seen in the Netherlands–where termination without request or consent is common and unpunished–once killing is accepted as an acceptable answer to human suffering, “choice” has increasingly less to do with it.”