UK Judge Gave Parents Permission to Euthanize Disabled 12-Year-Old Daughter

By Joseph Perticone | November 4, 2014 | 3:16pm EST

Nancy Fitzmaurice (left) with her mother, Charlotte Fitzmaurice Wise. (Facebook)

(CNSNews.com) - A British couple euthanized their disabled 12-year-old daughter in August after a High Court judge granted them permission to end her life by withholding all fluids.

The case was made public when the girl’s parents came forward and spoke to The Mirror newspaper in late October.

However, according to the United Kingdom's Ministry of Ethics, euthanasia is illegal in England.

"In fact the law treats it as murder as 'mercy killing' cannot be used as a defence," according to the ministry's website.

This case sets a new legal precedent because it is the first time that a child who was breathing on her own and not on life support or suffering from a terminal illness was euthanized.

Fourteen days after Justice Eleanor King granted the girl’s parents’ request and all feeding and hydration was removed, Nancy Fitzmaurice died at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the London Borough of Camden.

The girl was born with meningitis, septicaemia, and hydrocephalus, causing blindness and preventing her from talking, drinking, and eating. Her doctors did not expect her to live past her fourth birthday.

But she was responsive. “Simple things like birds singing and hearing children play would put the most beautiful smile on her face. She loved Michael Buble and when I slurped my tea, she would give out a hearty chuckle,” her mother, Charlotte Fitzmaurice Wise, said of her daughter.

At six months old, Nancy was diagnosed with epilepsy, which caused daily seizures. She also developed several neurological disorders. At age 10, she contracted a post-surgical infection that caused “screaming and writhing in agony,” according to her mother.

“[Nancy] is no longer my daughter, she is now merely just a shell” and “not being able to ease her suffering was too much to bear,” Charlotte Fitzmaurice told the judge.

However, the former nurse acknowledged that her daughter suffered terribly during the last two weeks of her life.

“Watching my daughter suffer for days while they cut off her fluids was unbearable,” she said. “She went in pain. It will stay with me forever. Although I will live with the guilt forever, I know I have done everything I can for her and she is at peace.”

But the head of a British anti-euthanasia group says that withdrawing fluids from the child was a violation of medical ethics.

“It is never ethical to speed up the process of dying by any intervention which has the primary intention to end life,” said Dr. Andrew Fergusson, chair of Care Not Killing. “Weakening laws that protect the sick, disabled and elderly would put vulnerable people at risk.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) condemned the British judge’s landmark decision, calling it an “extremely troubling legal precedent.”

In a press release, ASAN also pointed out that the policy of euthanasia “targets vulnerable people, particularly when it is applied to children.”

“Euthanasia of people with disabilities is an extremely dangerous and wholly inappropriate solution to inadequate pain management. In cases where painkillers are insufficient, a number of alternatives for pain management exist,” the group stated.

“People with disabilities who experience chronic pain should have same access as others to life-sustaining medical treatment,” ASAN added.

It also criticized media coverage of the case, which it called “extraordinarily irresponsible, implying that the child’s disability should justify a decision that her life was unworthy of living.”

“People with disabilities deserve better,” the group said.

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