A London judge ruled with a "heavy heart" Monday that an 8-year-old boy must be taken off life support, regardless of his Christian parents' prayers for a miracle.
The decision came just after the Journal of Medical Ethicsreleased a study in which British researchers expressed worry that parents who hope for divine intervention may act against the best interests of their child.
"We suggest it is time to reconsider current ethical and legal structures and facilitate rapid default access to courts in such situations when the best interests of the child are compromised in expectation of the miraculous," the authors—two doctors and a chaplain from a London children's hospital—concluded.
The study examines end-of-life cases over a three-year period. In the vast majority (186 of 203 cases) parents agreed to limit or withdraw "invasive therapy" that potentially would extend a child's life by artificial means. But in 11 of the 17 remaining cases, parents cited religious reasons—"expectation of divine intervention and a complete cure"—in arguing for the continuation of full medical treatment.
Parents resolved to withdraw treatment in five of those cases after meeting with religious leaders. However, aggressive treatment continued for five other children; in four of those cases, the children died.
"While it is vital to support families in such difficult times, we are increasingly concerned that deeply held belief in religion can lead to children being potentially subjected to burdensome care in expectation of 'miraculous' intervention," the study concluded.
The study, accompanied in the journal by four critical responses, quickly ...