The parents of a six-year-old West Australian boy have spoken of their distress after a Perth hospital obtained a court order to force chemotherapy on the child.
Angela Kiszko and Colin Strachan – the parents of Oshin Kiszko, who has been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer – believe that their son should not have to undergo chemotherapy, as it is not worth the suffering and risks, which can include long-term intellectual impairment. Instead they asked for palliative care.
Yet earlier this month, a West Australian Family Court ratified the decision of a Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) ethics committee to enforce the treatment, despite Kiszko and Strachan’s refusal.
Doctors said that the child’s brain tumour was on the cusp of an "irretrievable progression", and that the PMH peadiatric oncology team needed to commence treatment immediately.
The ethics committee, though initially divided, decided that the 'burdens and benefits equation' clearly fell in favour of active treatment.
Ms Kiszko had requested that doctors take a palliative option with reduced chemotherapy, but this was rejected by doctors at PMH.
Australian Medical Association WA president Michael Gannon has defended the hospital, saying the oncology unit at PMH was an outstanding one in a global context and he said no doctor would move to see such a treatment enforced without significant consultation.
"This is rare, extremely unusual and would weigh heavily on the individual clinicians involved," he told a local radio station. "It is something they would almost certainly discuss with their colleagues."
Former Austraiian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who is now 86, has publicly backed euthanasia, even for teenagers. He says that he fears the indignity of "losing his marbles" -- something he is trying to keep at bay with crosswords and suduko. He told euthanasia activist Andrew Denton that his second wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, will know what to do if he ever reaches that stage.
Acting as a poster boy for euthanasia is a sad end to a distinguished career. But it is, in a way, understandable. Dementia must be terrifying for people without adequate family support because of fractured relationships. And Mr Hawke, sadly, fractured his in a very public way by divorcing his first wife Hazel, who had been his spouse when he was Prime Minister, to marry his biographer, Ms d'Alpuget.
Hazel went on to be one of the most respected and best-loved women in public life in Australia. People praised her honesty and courage when she admitted that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She even published a book about it. Eventually she had to enter a nursing home where she lived for four years before her death. Mr Hawke was not there to help her.
For all of his intelligence and charm, Bob Hawke is wrong about euthanasia. Dementia is a disability and a civilised society does not solve the problem of disability by killing the disabled. The real indignity comes when the "abled" neglect their responsibility to care for the weak and vulnerable
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