By now, you may have seen the news about the five-year-old who decided to die.
How do you talk to your kids about death? It must be difficult. I say it must be difficult because (for better and for worse) there is no way I’ll ever know for sure (unless we adopt, I suppose). So it’s a situation I can’t really pass judgment over. (And yet I do have an opinion about an issue that I don’t think the parents have really considered.)
Nor can I relate to the illness Julianna has, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. I have my health issues, but none of them are life-threatening.
And it does sound like Julianna has some awareness of what she’s going through and the way she wants to live. There’s just one slight problem.
It hasn’t even begun to cross her mind that her parents might be wrong.
What if there’s no heaven? What if she just stops?
Even if she has heard the song by John Lennon, “Imagine,” I doubt she knows what it means.
So even if she’s super-intelligent, and she may be, she’s not making a fully informed decision. And that’s where I have a problem.
Can a child her age possibly make an informed decision? I wouldn’t know, but if you follow the link above, the bioethicist doesn’t think so, and I’m guessing he would know better than I would.
Now it’s entirely possible that, were Julianna older and able to consider the possibility that maybe there’s no heaven, she might decide it’s still not worth going back to the hospital for more painful treatments. I guess we’ll never know.
What do you think of this case? Leave your comments below.
3 thoughts on “This girl can’t “imagine there’s no heaven””
Art Caplan has made a career out of what I see as a sort of fussbudget ethical punditry. I find Chris Feudtner’s comments more valid in that they come from a deeper understanding of children. None of us knows what happens after death. We are all children when it comes to questions like that. It may even be that children understand some things better than we do.
Oh man. My daughter is 5 and I can’t even imagine.
My girl has seen a lot of death in her short life. She’s said goodbye to three beloved kitties and her paternal grandfather in the span of 2 years. Her paternal grandmother has pancreatic cancer and will leave us too soon. I’ve tried to answer her questions as simply as I can, but it’s still difficult for her to understand. She only just barely understands that we have souls and that the spirits of our loved ones who are gone from earth still love her and watch over her. Five is a delicate age… Old enough to almost get it, but not really.
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