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UK teen wins right to die with dignity

world Updated: Nov 11, 2008 23:06 IST
Vijay Dutt

A teenage girl has won the right to refuse a potentially life-saving heart operation after health authorities agreed to drop legal action to force her to undergo treatment.

Hannah Jones, 13, of Marden, near Hereford, has a terminal heart condition, and has had enough of hospitals where she had been going since eight years. So when doctors suggested she might need a heart transplant, she did not readily agree or looked for guidance from her parents. Instead she took a deep breath and just said No.

Still smiling, Hannah explained that she would rather spend any time she had left at home with her family and die with dignity.

When she refused the operation prescribed by the hospital, it drafted child protection officers and they threatened to remove her from her parents custody to make her have surgery. They said her heart “can only pump at 10 per cent of its capacity” but Hannah has already had three operations to fit pacemakers. Doctors said she would die within six months unless she went through the transplant.

But the teenager had been warned that the transplant could itself result in death while it would also weaken her immune system, meaning she could see the leukaemia she previously suffered return.

After eight years of being in and out of hospital, and with the prospect of further surgery and constant medication even if the transplant was successful, she decided she wanted to die with dignity and spend her remaining days at home.

Officers interviewed Hannah but she managed to convince them she did not want the transplant. Barristers at the High Court decided that she was old enough to make the decision for herself and the order was thrown out. “They explained everything to me but I just didn’t want to go through any more operations,” she told the Daily Mirror. “I’d had enough of hospitals and wanted to come home.”

Lord Hameed, a senior doctor who was CEO of Cromwell Hospital and is founder of Inter-Faith group talking with HT said, “Suicide or assisted suicide have no place in realm of faith or religion. Hannah is a minor, underage. The State should not support the parents in condoning her suicide.” “Human beings being what they are, at all costs the sanctity of life must be preserved. That is the law in Britain and that is what all religions tell.”