Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Right-To-Die Poster Child Wants to Live

“Everyone’s entitled to change their mind.” 14 year old Hannah Jones said after deciding to accept a heart transplant that she had initially refused last year.

Hannah had been in and out of hospitals since being diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four and later cardiomyopathy (a serious heart condition). Eventually the doctors told her that she needed a heart transplant. Hannah, tired of being in hospital and worried about dying in hospital while undergoing the procedure, refused the offer.

“I’ve been in hospital too much and I’ve associated hospital with bad memories, so that’s why I didn’t want the transplant. There is a chance that I may be OK, and there is a chance that I may not be as well as I could be, but I’m taking that chance.”

The case generated wide publicity, with Hannah becoming a right-to-die poster child. Newspapers hailed her decision to die at home as courageous and supported her cause. There was initially some question of government intervention in the case, but this was dropped when Hannah convinced a child protection officer that she was making an informed decision regarding her health.

Now, illustrating vividly that both circumstances and minds can change even in the most serious cases, Hannah has decided that she is now strong enough to undergo the transplant and is willing to face the risks attached.

“The right side of my heart isn’t beating at all, and after lots of tests I realised there were more benefits to having a new heart to staying like I was. If I had a new heart, I’d be on less tablets than I am at the moment. I take 27 but afterwards it would only be about 12.”

The case raises many serious issues, among them what role children should play in making life and death medical decisions about their own care. It also raises issues about assisted suicide, demonstrating that even the most determined and informed decisions to end care or actively seek death may change over time.

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