Study: Some parents consider hastening death of terminal, suffering child

When Christine Reilly’s little boy was being treated for cancer, she told his doctor she could handle almost anything.

“The only thing I will not be able to tolerate is him looking at me and saying, ‘Mommy, it hurts,’ ” she said in a story by Elizabeth Cooney, a Boston Globe correspondent.

Michael died when he was 5 years old of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which was diagnosed when he was 9 months old. His pain was well controlled, especially at the end of his life.

But Reilly, who lives near Boston, said she can understand why a parent would contemplate ending their dying child’s life sooner if that would ease the child’s unrelieved suffering.

A small study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports that more than one out of eight parents surveyed considered hastening the death of a child with terminal cancer, with their child’s suffering increasing the likelihood of such thoughts.

Five parents in the study said they actually asked a caregiver to speed up their child’s death.

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