Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

DNR For Disabled Child at SCHOOL?


I had to think about this, but I think the parents' decision to order their profoundly disabled daughter not to receive CPR at school if she has a cardiac arrest is very wrong. From the story:
As the school bus rolled to a stop outside her Lake County home, Beth Jones adjusted the bright yellow document protruding from the pouch of her daughter's wheelchair, making sure it was clearly visible. In bold letters it warned, "Do Not Resuscitate." The DNR order goes everywhere with Katie, including her 2nd-grade classroom at Laremont School in Gages Lake. The school is part of the Special Education District of Lake County, where an emotional two-year discussion ended this summer when officials agreed to honor such directives.

Now, district officials find themselves in the unusual position of having planned the steps its staff will, or won't, take to permit a child to die on school grounds. Although DNR orders are common in hospitals and nursing homes, such life-and-death drama rarely plays out in schools, where officials realize how sensitive and traumatic the situation could be for nurses, teachers and students.
The scare [an earlier episode in which she stopped breathing] strengthened Beth and Dave Jones' resolve to face the death of their daughter on their own terms.
I have great sympathy for the parents and I am certainly not against DNR orders per se. But this isn't just something that would necessarily be "on their own terms." It could also involve other people; the school administration, teachers, and most importantly other students and their parents who would have to deal with the trauma that could be caused by seeing a classmate die in front of their eyes.

The story says that Katie enjoys going to school:
On a recent morning, Beth Jones could readily see how keenly her daughter enjoyed her trips to school. The little girl was beaming up at her from her wheelchair as they waited for the bus. "You're in a really good mood, aren't you?" Beth Jones asked her.
It strikes me that if it is important for Katie to go to school--which it certainly seems to be--then the Jones family should think about the impact allowing Katie to die would have on others. At home, in a hospice, in a hospital, a DNR order could be proper. But I don't think such orders should extend into the realm of the general public. At that point, the presumption for life should prevail.

HT: Vickie McKenna


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