Teenager Wins Right To Die

A terminally-ill teenager has won the right to die after she was taken to court by her local hospital in an attempt to force her to have a heart transplant against her wishes.

13 year-old Hannah Jones of Hereford,England had been suffering from a rare form of leukemia since the age of 5 and subsequent high-dose chemotherapy for the leukemia  had caused a hole in the heart to form; so much so, she had to stop the drug therapy to prevent further damage to the failing heart. She was offered a heart transplant by NHS-run Hereford Hospital but decided against it because of the high surgical risk and possibility that the leukemia would resurface due to  her lowered immunity. Read more here.

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13 year-old Hannah Jones - a patient's decision-making rights override that of medical personnel's

Hereford Hospital then applied for a High Court order to forcibly remove the patient from her parents because they were “preventing her treatment”. However, after interviews with the Child Protection Team from the hospital, Hannah convinced the barristers at the High Court that she did not want the transplant and wanted to die in dignity. The court order was thrown out.

This case illustrates, among other things, that patients, provided that they are old enough to sufficiently understand and are made aware of the risks and benefits of a line of treatment, are entitled to decide for themselves whether to opt or not for that treatment(what the lawyers call informed self-determination).

For doctors, it is rather unsettling that, being trained to heal the sick and to prolong and enhance life,  they have to question why a young person would want to ‘throw away’ her life. Ultimately, the consent to pursue a line of treatment rests entirely upon a fully-informed patient, and medical personnel have to respect that.

Whatever it is, in Hannah’s case, we must applaud her bravery – in facing the disease, in undergoing the trials of treatment, and in making up her mind the way she did.  And what next for Hannah? Despite being terminally ill, she has expressed her dying wish to visit Disneyworld in Florida.

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2 responses

  1. Doc,

    I suppose when the will is broken, there is nothing much that can be done. Given what Hannah Jones has gone through it is quite difficult to fault her for her “broken spirit/will”!

    Nonetheless, miracles do happen and we do not know when the next one would occur.

    Doctor2008 writes: We’re not too sure her spirit is broken, especially if you read her interview here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3444840/Hannah-Jones-I-have-been-in-hospital-too-much.html.
    She looks as if she is in full control, which is why we should applaud her maturity and bravery.

  2. Decubitus position of the patients for long periods of time (currently used in clinical practice) without performing daily suitable physiotherapy for the metabolic and physiological stimulation of the body represents a serious error in modern medicine, for the most common pathologies. To treat a body in the circumstances of a metabolism that oscillates long periods of time around the basal rate value, is evidently that in these metabolic conditions may additionally appear and other pathologies or latent pathological affections can be released, leading to major pathological complications and sometimes to the complete body collapse.

    Particularly speaking is regrettable that the Hannah’s cardiomyopathy was discovered so late, since it may be even the essential cause of the leukemia, according to my concepts on the human physiopathology (published in the Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology – Volume 6, Number 2, 2007, “Somatic tissues degeneration”).

    Obviously, there are certain palliating circumstances, because the Hannah’s cardiomyopathy if it initially existed (if it was the cause of leukemia), its initial stage was relatively imperceptible the cardiomyopathy has evolved progressively. Besides, the initial status of the cardiovascular system was probably not examined as a potential and essential cause of the leukemia.

    The intention of this comment is absolutely not to accuse the pediatricians from the Herefordshire Primary Care Trust where Hannah Jones was receiving treatment, because the physiopathologic concept above mentioned on the correlation between the heart failure and leukemia it is a new concept, it has not yet been implemented in the medical practice and education.

    However, the heart transplant is not the best solution in this pathologic case (having in view her clinical and physiological state), especially owing to the fact that the physiological degeneracy has inclusively been occurred at the level of specialized nervous areas of the heart from the CNS, in direct proportional relationship with the heart condition.

    Certainly, the duration of physiotherapeutic process will be relatively long time, a few years, about 1-2 hours every day it will be progressively applied in relationship to the physiopathologic status of the body. Also, this suitable and constant applied physical therapy should be preventively used and after her complete cured (at an adequate intensity), for the health maintenance of cardiovascular system and parenchymal organs. Additionally, I would like to mention within this context that the last aspect (exercise and physical fitness) should have a general character, the physiological and metabolic preventive stimulation of human body tissues is absolutely necessary in the social environmental conditions for avoiding degenerative and pathological processes at the level of cardiovascular system and parenchymal organs – and implicitly at the level of musculoskeletal tissues.

    Finally, after the physiotherapeutic treatment, if an open heart operation will be imperious necessary for correction, or even a heart transplant, it will certainly be performed in superior conditions for survival, and without possibility of recurrence of the leukemia.

    I would be very glad if this short scientific comment (opinion) will favorably influence the decision of this amazing brave girl for a good outcome – and the British medical authorities agree that the solution of the physiotherapeutic treatment is scientifically founded and valid for this pathologic case if the Hannah’s leukemia has occurred due to heart condition.

    Pavel D.

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