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.
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.