That British Girl's Brave Heart
"I try not to think about death, but I do know my time is limited. I live each day as it comes. I enjoy life. It's hard not to feel that life's unfair, but I am determined to make the best of it."
That's Hannah Jones, as quoted in Friday's Washington Post article about this British 13-year-old who has recently declined a potentially life-extending heart transplant. Jones, diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and with a faulty heart (resulting from her cancer treatment) at age 12, maintains that she's spent too much of her life already in hospitals undergoing painful treatments. She wants to spend whatever remains of her life at home with her family. Her parents -- her mother is an intensive care nurse -- support her decision.
Hannah's story has apparently roiled Great Britain. Is a 13-year-old capable of making such an enormous decision? Where does a physician's responsibility to do everything possible to help a patient end? And how does one weigh an extension on life bought through painful means in a hospital against the loss of precious days at home surrounded by loved ones?
Cindy Speas, director of community affairs at the Washington Regional Transplant Community in Annandale, says she knows of little precedent for such a case involving so young a person in the U.S. "I'm not a legal expert," she says, "but she wouldn't have the legal standing in this country to make such a decision."
There is no national standard for handling situations such as Jones's, Speas says. Instead, they're handled here on a case-by-case, state-by-state, or transplant-center-by-transplant-center basis, with decisions generally made by parents together with the transplant team and other physicians.
Hannah Jones sounds wise, even wiser than most 13-year-olds (who, in my experience, can be very wise indeed). And from what I've read, it seems she has considered her options carefully and understands the stakes. But it's hard to gauge whether a person her age has sufficient perspective to fully grasp the finality of death.
What do you think? Should Hannah Jones's wish to live her life out at home be honored, even if that means her life is shortened? How much say should a 13-year-old have in such matters?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
November 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Older Drivers, Vision Screening, and Traffic Fatalities
Next: Cooking for One Guy
Posted by: choirgirl04 | November 17, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: seven_jaguar | November 17, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: seven_jaguar | November 17, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: DoTheRightThing | November 17, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: choirgirl04 | November 17, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: muddiboots | November 17, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PlayByTheRules | November 17, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 17, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: theGelf | November 17, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TQWoods | November 17, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: martypjohnson | November 17, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dave1011 | November 17, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: iansmccarthy | November 18, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.