Suffering Before Death

Jun 9 2011 @ 10:13am

In this week's New Yorker Aleksandar Hemon talks (paywalled) about his daughter, who was diagnosed with cancer at 9 months old. Hemon raises the issue of suffering:

One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world.

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels responds and echoes discussions of assisted suicide:

At the last, desperate efforts are made to resuscitate her when her heart fails (her kidney are gone and she has suffered several seizures). “Teri and I held our dead child—our beautiful, every-smiling daughter, her body bloated with liqud and battered by compression [from the effort to resuscitate her]—kissing her cheeks and toes.” What can one say?

Nonetheless, let us ask: Since survival rates for teratoids in children under three are less than 10 percent, what if the doctors had offered palliative care at some point? Isabel would almost certainly have died–but so brutally?