By Anne O’Meara, Executive Director
Imagine this frightening scenario…
You are watching your grandchildren and find your 4-year old grandson lying face down in the backyard pool. You do CPR and he is rushed to the hospital. For the first couple of days, he breathes on his own. Then, he experiences brain swelling and is placed on a ventilator. Click here to read more.
On September 25, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued the Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children. We encourage everyone to read this life-affirming Executive Order and share it with anyone facing denial of wanted treatment for their premature or disabled infant. The order’s full text is available for download here.
Section 1, after citing several relevant federal statutes, in part declares,
Together, these laws help protect infants born alive from discrimination in the provision of medical treatment, including infants who require emergency medical treatment, who are premature, or who are born with disabilities. Such infants are entitled to meaningful and non-discriminatory access to medical examination and services, with the consent of a parent or guardian, when they present at hospitals receiving Federal funds.
Despite these laws, some hospitals refuse the required medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment or otherwise do not provide potentially lifesaving medical treatment to extremely premature or disabled infants, even when parents plead for such treatment.
Section 2 states,
It is the policy of the United States to recognize the human dignity and inherent worth of every newborn or other infant child, regardless of prematurity or disability, and to ensure for each child due protection under the law.
And Section 3 directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “ensure that individuals responsible for all programs and activities under his jurisdiction that receive Federal funding are aware of their obligations toward infants …” and to enforce this executive order.
HALO asked Mary Kellett, the president and founder of Prenatal Partners for Life (prenatalpartnersforlife.org), for her opinion regarding this Executive Order. She responded:
I think the order is a good thing. I especially like that it requires all federally funded hospitals to offer medical interventions for severely premature infants – including those “born alive before 24 weeks of gestation” – and to offer non-discriminatory access to medical care for newborns with severe disabilities.
Hospitals that have offered care to extreme preemies have seen good results, with many surviving. Families often face pressure not to treat when their children could be helped. This order hopefully will alleviate some of that pressure. Families can always refuse treatment, but this, again hopefully, will ensure it is at least offered. Right now, basic care that would be routinely done for other children is often denied to children who are severely premature or disabled.
If a baby is actively dying, then comfort care is appropriate. Many times, that is not the case in kids like Peter. [Mary’s son Peter had Trisomy 18.] He would have died if they would have wrapped him up in a blanket and we would have just held him [as Peter’s doctors advised Mary to do]. He needed extra help in the beginning like many babies with these conditions. I hope this order will help the babies get the care they need to reach their full potential. *
*Read “Lies Have No Place in Medicine” by Mary Kellett in the January 2020 edition of the HALO Herald.
When preborn babies are diagnosed with serious disabling and sometimes life-threatening conditions, parents routinely are pressured to choose abortion. When they refuse to have their babies killed, perinatal (perinatal means around the time of birth) palliative care may be offered to them. This specialized support is also available for children with disorders that are not detected until after birth. Perinatal palliative care (a.k.a. perinatal hospice) is provided from the time of diagnosis through the baby’s birth and death. Perinatal palliative care is akin to hospice services provided to older patients and their families.
An idealistic picture
The professed goal of the specialty called Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) is to relieve symptoms—including pain and stress. Palliative care can be initiated at any stage in a serious illness and provided in conjunction with curative or life-prolonging treatment. Hospice care is a subset of palliative care. Hospice is focused on providing comfort care when a patient no longer has curative options or has chosen to forgo treatment because the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits.
When palliative care is provided by medical professionals who genuinely respect and protect the life of every person committed to their care, it can be a blessing that improves the quality of life for both the patient and the family. Unfortunately, not all HPM providers believe that every human life has equal worth.
Organizations that promote hospice present an idealistic picture of compassionate “end-of-life” care, but the realistic picture is that palliative care often is a pathway to imposed (intentionally caused) death for vulnerable patients who cannot protect themselves.  Therefore, when a loved one is receiving palliative care, families must be vigilant, and that includes families of newborns with serious but not necessarily fatal conditions.
The pros and cons of perinatal palliative care
The website Perinatal Hospice & Palliative Care states, “Perinatal palliative care helps parents embrace whatever life their baby might be able to have, before and after birth.”  Providing comfort care is compassionate and appropriate when a baby is close to death and there is no way to preserve their life. But, what if medical treatment might extend or save a baby’s life?
Families are not always told the whole truth, which may lead them to choose death for their sick or disabled child. Mary Kellett, the president and founder of Prenatal Partners for Life, explains, “Predicting the future in only a negative light is a common experience for families who receive a diagnosis. Families are told all the things their child will never do. Families are sometimes made to feel guilty for wanting to embrace the life of their child and help their child reach their full potential.” 
Sometimes, families are told their child’s condition is “incompatible with life” when timely and appropriate medical treatment could save their baby’s life. When parents then accept the offer of perinatal hospice, it is a death sentence for their baby. Perinatal hospice provides comfort care, which means pain medication and sedation, but no life-support or life-saving treatment. Although perinatal hospice providers will deny it, they often hasten their little patients’ deaths.
Sara Buscher, Esq., a member of HALO’s Advisory Board, provides evidence to support this assertion.
Remember when Governor Ralph Northam said a baby born alive after an abortion would be kept comfortable. Then, the doctor would discuss withholding life-sustaining treatment (i.e. food and liquids) from the baby with its parents. Recall the outrage? Everyone recognized this was infanticide. Well, Governor Northam is a pediatrician who spent 19 years as a children’s’ hospice medical director.
Judie Brown, the president of American Life League and another member of HALO’s Advisory Board, sums up the situation.
And so once again society is left with two choices.
Shall we choose to listen to those who believe that imposed death is best or those who respect the vulnerable life of someone who may well die, but only in God’s time without outside interference.
Respect for life does not embrace exceptions.
 “Palliative Care: A Pathway to Imposed Death,” by Ioana Caranica and Julie Grimstad, Celebrate Life Magazine, Winter 2020.
 “Lies Have No Place in Medicine,” by Mary Kellett, HALO Herald, January 21, 2020, https://newsletter.halovoice.org/2020/01/lies-have-no-place-in-medicine
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