Dr. Luis Raez, expert in bioethics and professor at the Hematology and Oncology Clinic at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, has warned that the case of Hannah Jones, a 13 year-old British girl who decided not to undergo a heart transplant, sets a precedent that is “very dangerous and could be used legally to promote euthanasia.”
According to the British press, Hannah’s chances of surviving the operation are minimal. A battle with leukemia left her heart extremely weak and it is currently functioning at only 10 percent of normal capacity. She has already undergone several surgeries.
Hannah explained that her treatments have exhausted her and that taking medicines constantly has been very difficult. “I don’t like to be like this but I live with it,” she said. For these and other reasons she decided to refuse the transplant, without which doctors have said she has only six months to live.
In response to her refusal, administrators at the Herefordshire Primary Care Trust in Hereford, England decided to seek temporary custody of the child in order to “force” her to undergo the surgery. However, after several court hearings and a report from a child protection officer, the hospital withdrew its legal action.
According to the BBC, Hannah convinced the officer that her decision was the result of thoughtful and mature reflection. "I don't know exactly what Hannah said but it must have been powerful enough to convince some very high-up people that she was right. It is an incredible thing for a young person who has been through such a lot to have the bravery to stand up for her rights. We're so very proud of our little girl,” her father Andrew Jones told The Independent.
Together with Hannah’s mother Kristy, Andrew supports the decision of their daughter. “Obviously we want to have Hannah with us as long as possible, but we are not going to force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do at this time,” he told The Daily Mail.
Alicia Latorre, president of the Spanish Federation of Pro-life Associations, said the reporting on Hannah has been fraught with “deceitful language. The sensationalist media tells us that Hannah Jones, the British 13 year-old girl who does not want a heart transplant has won the battle to ‘die with dignity’.”
She noted that the term “death with dignity” is one of the euphemisms used by the culture of death. “Human beings have dignity from the moment of conception and it is the obligation of everyone to facilitate that everyone can be born and enjoy conditions of life in accordance with that dignity,” she said.
Dr. Raez pointed out that “the Catholic Church has always been clear that extraordinary means should not be forced upon someone in order to artificially prolong life, but these means are defined according to the person and the circumstances. For example, a heart transplant in an elderly patient (over the age of 85) is probably an extraordinary and unnecessary procedure, but in this case it is a girl who is only 13 years old. Certainly there are doubts as to whether her life expectancy would be another 70 years but only God knows how long it would be.”
Raez noted that “heart surgery is a procedure performed every day in all countries of the world, and thus it is not always necessarily an extraordinary procedure.”
Another aspect of the case, he said, “is the precedent, since British and European law influences greatly this kind of legislation. In English-speaking countries, this case creates a very dangerous precedent that could be used to legally promote euthanasia if children are allowed to express their opinions without having adequate knowledge of the issue, especially when they are sick.”
Raez went on to state that perhaps “due to her young age and the suffering she has endured because of her long illness, she is losing the hope to live.” Therefore, he said, “the parents, who are legally responsible for making decisions for her are without hope and faith and no longer wish to keep fighting.” “The dignity of the human person is extremely valuable even when one is suffering or dying, because the love of God for us never diminishes even when we go through the worst of circumstances,” he asserted.
Dr. Luis Raez is certified by the American Board in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. He currently works on research for new cancer treatments and has published numerous articles on medical ethics and euthanasia, stem-cells and human embryos.