“Heaven over hospital” is the tearjerker story lots of folks have been talking about this week, with good cause.
Set in Oregon, a state with liberal euthanasia laws, the major players aren’t consenting adults dying of some awful disease and who want to put a quicker end to their misery.
No, this time the major player is a 5-year-old.
The story is in two parts. Here is how the second part debuts:
(CNN) Five-year-old Julianna Snow has never been healthy enough to attend Sunday school at the City Bible Church in Portland, Oregon, where her family belongs, so most of what she knows about heaven, she knows from her parents.
They tell her that heaven is where she'll be able to run and play and eat, none of which she can do now. Heaven is where she'll meet her great-grandmother, who shared Julianna's love of shiny, sparkly, mismatched clothes.
God will be in heaven, too, they tell her, and he will love her even more than they do.
But Michelle Moon and Steve Snow explain that they won't be in heaven when Julianna arrives there, and neither will her big brother, Alex. She'll go to heaven before them because she has a severe case of an incurable neurodegenerative illness called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
Her coughing and breathing muscles are so weak that the next time she catches even a cold, the infection could settle in her lungs, where it could cause a deadly pneumonia. Her doctors believe that if they can save her under those circumstances -- and that's a big if -- she will likely end up sedated on a respirator with very little quality of life.
And here comes the issue that lifts this tragic story into the news:
There's no debate about the medical facts of Julianna's condition. But there is debate about something her parents have chosen to do: They asked their daughter, at the age of 4, if she would want to go to the hospital the next time she becomes dangerously ill, or would she want to stay home, where she would die.
Julianna has said she doesn't want to go to the hospital. She wants to go to "heaven."
I am not sure why CNN felt it had to put the word “heaven” in quotes.
This is the second October in a row that a poignant euthanasia story has played out in Oregon. It hasn’t been that long since 29-year-old Bethany Maynard, who moved to Oregon because of its liberal euthanasia law, died last Nov. 1 of brain cancer. Because she agreed to be a poster person for euthanasia in her home state of California and taped videos and interviews for various publications arguing that seriously ill people have a right to die when and how they wish, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this month making assisted suicide legal.
After reading the second part of the CNN feature, go back and read part one, which tells of the genetic tour de force that gave this child such a horrible disease and how she has already spent several agonizing stays in the hospital having tubes shoved through her nose -- with no sedation -- to drain her tiny lungs.
The parents, knowing her life will be short as the disease is terminal, are wondering many more times they should put her through this hell. And so they’ve decided to let her die in peace.
The big hole is any quotes by religious authorities on the whole child euthanasia question and whether this is akin to Belgium, where children are legally euthanized.
We know only the name of the church this couple attends (which happens to be a non-denominational charismatic church). There is no commentary from their pastor. (One possibility is that the church opposes this family's decision, which would make the story even more intriguing).
You’d think that in a two-parter on this kind of topic a comment from their pastor could have been squeezed in. I mean, they are talking about heaven, right?
The reporter does interview a one bio-ethicist but totally avoids any religious point of view. Why?
So, either the reporter didn’t think to include faith content or she did include it and it was removed. We’ve noticed CNN excising religion from other stories, so it would not be a shock to hear it was done here as well.
Whatever the reason, it’s a big hole. Around here we call that a "ghost."
Moreover, CNN, which covered child euthanasia in Belgium not too long ago left out quotes from religious leaders in that story as well. But at least the network lined up more people who opposed the practice.
This time, not so much. Why? Because, as the story points out over and over again, the kid is worn out from all these painful procedures and simply wants to die. Their headline says it: “Dying girl, age 5, makes a choice.” And her parents are trying to build up her courage for the last trip she will make in this life.
Still, can any child be trusted to make that decision? Is it possible that this child is responding to her parents’ suggestions that her existence would be better if she stopped going to the hospital and left this Earth? Many of us might do the same thing if our children were in a similar boat.
But there are ethical and religious issues there. At least present us with both sides of the debate. Are there other credible sources who can say why letting a terminally ill 5-year-old choose the timing her own death might be a bad idea? Is it possible the parents are asking the kid leading questions because their minds about the next step are already made?
And would too many dissenting voices destroy the euthanasia narrative that we are beginning to see again and again in the media? You know; the things we once thought were impossible or unspeakable that are now happening. There are competing narratives out there from people who were thinking of euthanasia but backed off.
Is there anyone else with the same disease as this little girl who's managed to prolong their life? The folks at CNN only need to make a few more phone calls to see if this is the case.