HOUSTON - What happens when a young child's life can't be saved and there's no chance for any recovery? A grandfather's long wait to watch his 21-month-old granddaughter die is stirring a new debate over euthanasia in Texas.
"This has to change," said Brad Newton, the grandfather who lives in Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi. "No human should ever have to go through that again."
Newton's granddaughter Natalie suffered a severe brain injury that required intensive, risky surgery. After that procedure came more heartache: total organ failure, impending kidney disease, and Natalie was also left a quadriplegic. Newton said the chances of the little girl surviving just one year were less than four percent.
"So, of course, you have start thinking do we want her to live like this," Newton said. "Of course, the answer is no."
The family went before an ethics committee at a Corpus Christi hospital where Natalie was treated.
"In Nattie's case, it was voted unanimously that end of life was the humane thing to do," said Newton.
Newton said that's when his family's tragedy took a disturbing turn. The only way the end-of-life process can be done in Texas is to remove the life support by removing a feeding tube. The family was told to bring Natalie home and start the process.
"You realize, isn't that starving her to death?" said Newton. "I'm like 'Well why can't we inject like, some morphine or something? Do something peaceful and quick.'"
In Texas, as with most states, human euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is illegal. However, Newton believes families should have some choice instead of being forced to watch a child slowly die.
It took Natalie nine days to die. Newton calls it nine days of "pure torture." He believes it all could have been replaced with just 30 seconds of a medically-induced peaceful death. Natalie's family is now pushing state lawmakers to change the laws and allow euthanasia for humans.
"It should be right to choose to let them go quickly and peacefully," said Newton.
Despite the unimaginable pain, many doctors said human euthanasia is just not that simple. Writing specific regulations and new laws is controversial and many doctors said they just don't support it.
"My worry with that would be, and I would never support that, because it's such a slippery slope," said Dr. Sarah Austin, a neurologist who deals with end-of-life situations with many of her patients. "When do you decide that this is the right time to hasten their death? I mean that's what you're doing with euthanasia is hastening death. I think you do better to allow that process to go on naturally and make people comfortable in the process."
Newton believes something has to be done to allow the terminally ill to die in peace and allow a family to grieve the passing, not the process.
The family has set up a foundation to raise awareness for end-of-life options and the brain injury Natalie suffered. Click the link to find out more.
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