Dear Jim and Bronwen Stewart

When is the life of a two-year-old child not worth living? When the future holds nothing but pain and his brave parents decide to save him from suffering ...
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The Independent Online
I salute you for having the courage to stare facts between the eyes and confront the truth: some lives are so awful that they aren't worth living; and sometimes the only brave and honest thing to do is admit it, and end the life.

Your little boy, Ian, is two years old and in constant pain. He can't see and he can't hear but he can and does feel pain, 24 hours a day. He screams in constant agony. He has been brain-damaged since an operation to try to repair his congenitally damaged heart went wrong. Soon his heart will get worse, there'll be more surgery, more pain, and no possibility, ever, of a normal life at the end of it all.

We protest vehemently when men in white coats submit rats, mice and guinea pigs to pain in laboratories. Some people firebomb the researchers. What else is your son being subjected to, but painful and pointless research?

All right, maybe after doctors have failed to cure another dozen or so children like yours, medical knowledge may have advanced microscopically - but are you supposed to sacrifice your child for that?

But that, of course, is not the point at issue. What we're talking about here is the sanctity of life ... or so says Dr Peggy Norris, who chairs the anti-euthanasia group Alert. We've heard it all before: the sanctimonious babble of those who have never had to watch someone dying slowly and in agony, let alone a helpless and uncomprehending child.

Ian's life isn't sacred to Dr Norris (what kind of doctorate is it, I wonder?). But it's sacred to you, his parents, and if you genuinely feel it has become a travesty, surely common sense and common humanity cry in agreement: end it.

Back to Dr Norris. "We sympathise deeply with the plight of Ian's parents" (no, you don't, or you wouldn't castigate them publicly for a decision over which they must have brooded for months) "and can only say they must have more support and respite care.'' (Ah yes - respite care, the panacea for all ills. A few days under the cool hands of some caring nurses and all will be well.) She goes on: "Ian's parents are obviously under a lot of stress" (notice that she does not call it anguish, with its too-powerful evocation of how they must feel, but prefers the neutral, all-purpose word stress) "but they should consider approaching their paediatricians for help." Why Dr Norris, who'd ever have thought of that! Her final recommendation? "I do think the Stewarts ought to go to their MP."

The mealy-mouthed ramblings of the morally infantile, the Luddites of medical ethics, never change. A hundred years ago they opposed the use of anaesthetics in childbirth. ("If women do not suffer to bring forth they will not feel mother-love."). Thirty years ago they railed against kidney or heart transplants ("a crime against nature, which should be left to take its course, and a torment for the donor's relatives"). Now, they deny the blessing of a swift lethal injection to those in unspeakable and incurable pain.

It is an appalling and twisted set of values that does not allow the Stewarts to alleviate their child's suffering; and a very sick society in which strangers who cannot even imagine their dilemma can exploit it by climbing on to their hollow soapbox to preach the sanctity of life to others.

ANGELA LAMBERT

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