Dan Gilmore / October 28, 2015

Can a Five-Year-Old Say She Wants to Die?

Answering this question should never be easy.

At this point, one family’s decision isn’t influencing medical ethics in a state where assisted suicide is legal. For now, it’s one of those excruciating ethical decisions made in hospital halls among family members. Julianna Snow, five, is dying from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, an incurable genetic disease where the body’s neurons deteriorate away. She has said she would rather go to heaven instead of returning to the hospital. Parents Michelle Moon and Steven Snow say they will honor their daughter’s request and let the next infection run its course through her weakened body. CNN took time to tell the family’s story, to explore both sides of the issue. In a February email, Moon recounted a conversation she had with Julianna.

> Michelle: Julianna, if you get sick again, do you want to go to the hospital again or stay home?

> Julianna: Not the hospital.

> Michelle: Even if that means that you will go to heaven if you stay home?

> Julianna: Yes… I hate NT (naso-tracheal suction, where a tube was placed down her nose into her lungs without sedation). I hate the hospital.

It’s doubtful that Julianna had a developed concept of death. After the Sandy Hook murders, we were told that children at that age do not grasp death’s finality. Also, kids are impressionable. What was the pro-life thing to do? Perhaps it was to fight for every second of life. Perhaps it is to honor the wishes of a person — no matter how small — when she says enough is enough. God knows abortionists don’t take that question into account when they take lives younger than hers. Her case is different from assisted suicide, in that her death will not be medically induced. But one thing’s for certain: The answer to end-of-life questions should never be easy and it’s not the government’s place to arrive at a solution.

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