Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who decides the meaning of "Quality of Life?"

A few days ago, I noticed on Facebook that friends were sharing a blog post about a child with mental and physical disabilities who was being denied a life-saving kidney transplant. Many were "out-raged" because on the surface it reads that a child was denied a transplant solely because she is "mentally retarded". I was busy at the time I saw the post, and didn't bother to read about it beause I thought to myself, "there is always more to the story."

At lunch today I noticed the same story had gained national attention, and was being reported on by ABC News. I read the article and remained unimpressed - there has to be more to the story. So I went to the Mother's blog, and read with teary eyes their story. And when I got to the end of it, I felt there had to be more. I looked briefly for some history on the child, perhaps a personal blog or website where the Mother was disclosing health information, but found nothing. All we are left with is her story of a horrific experience, and medical information and statistics on the child's diagnosis. In her story, the mother eludes to "Hepatits C", and "HIV"; but there is no discussion as to why those words are relavant to the hospital's decision in this matter.

Now, I would be the very first person to stand up and scream and shout that NO ONE - EVER, EVER, EVER, no one should EVER be discriminated against or denied medical treatment because they are "mentally retarded!" Just two days ago, I posted my hope that one day Jenelle be judged on the content of her character, and not by her disability. And I do personally believe that the Special Needs community (which is very vast and inclusive of many different types of disabilities) is probably still one of the most discriminated against communities in the world. Yet, even though I agree strongly with all of that - I find myself feeling sorry for this particular family.

Their daughter is only 3 years old, so this "special needs" way of life is still new to them. They can't possibly know, or understand what the doctors are warning against because they are too emotionally involved. The Mother even quotes the Social Worker and the Doctor's warnings of the dangerous side effects to a normal child, let alone a child with her disabilities. And the many medications she will need along with the long term care and attention. They are trying to make the family understand "quality of life," and all the Mother hears and knows is that her child is "developmentally delayed" and thus entitled to her right to live.

I'm not saying this Mother is wrong, but as with anything, experience tends to make me somewhat jaded. Each Special Needs Child is different, and wonderful, and complicated in so many ways. Each brings joy to the lives of their Mother and Father - there is no questioning that. But just because we have the science and ability to prolong the enivetable for our Special Needs Children, does it mean we should?

It goes back to the definition of "quality of life", and who decides the meaning of it. Yes, I realize I've just opened a big ole can of worms. That I'm the minority. In fact, I realzie I'm being very matter of fact about as decision that is as unique as each indiviual on the planet. However, the issue of "quality of life" has become very personal to me in recent years. I think of Jenelle's quality of life, Brett's quality of life, Jack's quality of life, MY quality of life, my Parents' quality of life, my Niece's quality of life, and it goes on...and yet there are so many different interpretations of the meaning.

So who decides? Who determines "quality of life?" I honestly don't know the answer. It changes with each possibility, and each circumstance, and for each individual person. I do hope that when I have to make that choice for myself or my family that the choice is easy for me. But we can't all be that lucky.

Back to the "discrimination" issue; is this child being discriminated against? I don't think so, because there is always more to the story. Is it sad? Yes. Do I feel horribly for the family? Absolutely. Are the doctors right on this one? Possibly. Again, there is always more to the story.

1 comment:

Shonette said...

so sad and painful to hear :(