Religion, Euthanasia, and the Quadriplegic Thirteen Year Old child

I'm a nurse in a facility that cares for medically fragile and technology dependent children, I have worked here for eight years and really enjoy my work... well for the most part at least. One of the kids I have worked with since I started at this facility is now thirteen, a very mature thirteen year old boy, Wise beyond his years as some people would say. I have become very attached. His mother's once frequent visits, she lives forty miles away, are now down to about twice a year. He spends his days tapping at an I-Pad and a video game with a stick in his mouth.

This child was hit by a truck at the age of five, and has been a complete ventilator dependent quad ever since. Through the years we have become very close. Last night, we talked and he told me that he just wished that he would die, He explained if he ended up in heaven, or if he ended up in hell, it would be much better than the life he has now. I have always given the same stock response when a sick kid asked me about death and dying; That you need to make the most out of the life that you have now and on the flip-side, what a wonderful place heaven is going to be. I hate doing this, but I just don't know how to tell a dying kid the truth. I did this last night and he was having none of it. He told me that their probably was no God, and if there was, he must be evil to do this to a little kid. He also said that he really did not have any good friends, because a good friend would help him end his life and thus end his suffering. He said he did not expect me to it, because he said he knows that I would loose my job.(for starters) I got home from work this morning and felt this kid deserves for me to at least be truthful with him, I feel like I am really avoiding being truthful with him on how I really feel. I think like most people, if I was in his shoes (pardon the pun) I would want someone to pull the plug too.

Getting this Kid any kind of psychiatric care is never going to happen, this is do to the state of publicly funded healthcare.

I'm just wondering if anyone has ever been in this situation or has any advice on exactly how truthful I should be, or any little nuggets of wisdom I could give him? 


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He sounds kind of too smart for the usual god loves you and heaven is awesome nonsense. Then again he is very clearly looking for comfort. Tough job you got there, attaching yourself is never good.

It seems he's really past the looking to be comforted, that worked for years but now he seems very accepting that things will never get better for him. I just don't know if he would be better off having someone validate how he feels or someone telling him the standard BS.

Working with, and spending more time than you spend with your own kid makes it not easy to stay detached.

I'm honest, I'm not the kind of person you'd want to get advice from. But for me it has always been that truth is more important than comfort. But comfort can be found in many things. Sometimes you may find it when something uncomfortable just ends. This kid is obviously not comfortable living. Many people may think I'm awful for saying this, but sometimes death is something that a person can look forward to. It's solace, freedom from pain. In his place I would probably wish to die as well, since it's the only thing I'd have to look forward to. That doesn't make it a bad thing. Too bad, for him, that he is forced to live as a prisoner of live.

I've volunteered with disabled kids and it can be a tough situation.  Many cling to heaven as a chance to experience the life on which they know they are missing out.  Others become dark and can be rather frightening in their pragmatism.

I have no problem withholding my thoughts about heaven when it brings some satisfaction to a child in a rough situation.  I also avoid lying when the same child asks me directly what I believe.

This kid sounds mature and intelligent enough to handle your thoughts.  Telling him that you don't believe in heaven either is the easy part - what do you tell him after that?  I'm not sure what I would have to say, but I know I would want to think it out very clearly before I engaged.  That kid is likely to have thought things through far better than you could possibly imagine - and could crush you as you try to flail for answers.

I don't know what else to say other than I'm glad I'm not you right now.

It's not a matter of losing your job. Does he understand that euthanasia is murder, even with the consent of the "victim"? It's a theoretical death penalty for premeditated murder in some places (though a lengthy prison term is more likely). The best you can do is to be a friend, I think. Someone who's willing to listen and empathize.

You can tell him that once he's old enough, perhaps he can get himself moved to Oregon where assisted suicide is legal.

read to him some Stephan Hawkins and see about getting him an neural actuator...

Oregon's assisted suicide law would not help this boy unless it changes by the time he's 18 or unless the boy develops a terminal illness.

127.805 s.2.01. Who may initiate a written request for medication.

(1) An adult who is capable, is a resident of Oregon, and has been determined by the attending physician and consulting physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, and who has voluntarily expressed his or her wish to die, may make a written request for medication for the purpose of ending his or her life in a humane and dignified manner in accordance with ORS 127.800 to 127.897.

(2) No person shall qualify under the provisions of ORS 127.800 to 127.897 solely because of age or disability. [1995 c.3 s.2.01; 1999 c.423 s.2]

Oregon has assisted suicide, but it's for adults of sound mind. If he can control a wheelchair as, I believe, Stephen Hawking can, there will be many ways of committing suicide.

You might want to explain that as an adult of legal age he will have more options if he still feels the same way then. His feelings are probably not going to change but I would not volunteer any information about your lack of belief as this might only reinforce his desire to end his life. Just being a friend who tries to humor and engage his mind is the most important thing you could be for him.

Your position while understandable is not from his point of view. I can envision circumstances where I become severely handicapped physically and would not want to deal with the miserable existence of depending on others to feed me, change my diaper, comb my hair, etc. I have already expressed my desires with my spouse if I should end up looking like something out of the vegetable garden.

He may eventually choose suicide but he needs hope for now.  That hope lies in science and the possibility of medical advances that will cure or alleviate his situation.  If you get him to focus on that, it will both give him hope and maybe give him something more to do than play video games.  He can focus his mind on learning about the research that might help those in his situation.  I don't know if it is safe for you to mention your non-belief at this job, even to a child, but you could certainly say that you understand how he feels.  Kudos to you for being his friend.

The kid is 13 years old and has clearly thought about the topic of god before and is tired of the stock responses. Be honest with the kid and tell him what you think when he asks. Maybe having a person who is actually truthful will help him to deal a little better with his situation. If I were in that boy's situation I certainly wouldn't want to hear "make the most out of the life you have." I'd want to punch the person who said that to me in the face because they either can't emphasize with the situation/feelings or they are just saying that because they are supposed to. I'd much rather have a person I could bounce ideas and questions off of and trust that I am going to get an honest response. At least an honest person would engage my mind and maybe take my mind off of the situation briefly.


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