Local doctor reacts to Chilean girl’s suicide aid request

Local doctor and mother Michelle Stanford responded to the news of a 14-year-old Chilean girl’s request for assisted suicide calling it “saddening.”

“I think compassion is caring, not killing. Caring for them is trying to be with them in their suffering,” said Stanford, a Catholic who runs Centennial Pediatrics clinic.

Stanford said physician-assisted suicide remains a crucial topic for Coloradans and people across the world that grapple with questions about the meaning of true compassion for the sick and dying.

The world reacted after Valentina Maureira, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, made a plea to Chile’s president through a YouTube video for permission to end her life.

Maureira said, “I urgently request to speak to the president because I’m tired of living with this illness. I want her approval so I can get a shot that will make me sleep forever.”

On Feb. 28, President Michelle Bachelet’s spokesperson responded after the video spread over social media. Spokesperson Alvaro Elizalde expressed empathy for Valentina’s situation, but stressed that Chilean law does not allow euthanasia.

He said, “It’s impossible not to be overcome by emotion with the girl’s request; it’s impossible to grant her wish.”

The Associated Press reported that in an interview with the girl’s father, Fredy Maureira, he said he supported his daughter’s request; however, he “cried through the night” after he first heard about her wish to die.

He added, “This is so tough, but I have to respect her decision because she’s the one who’s suffering this illness.”

Elizalde said the health ministry was in contact with Maureira’s family and was providing her psychological assistance as well as medical treatment. In a statement issued by the hospital, Castillo said she had been transferred out of the critical pediatric patient unit.

He said, “Right now our therapeutic efforts are aimed at the recovery of her nutritional state and supporting her family.”

The girl’s brother died from the same disease when he was 6.

The Mayo Clinic defines cystic fibrosis as a life-threatening disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. The condition is inherited and affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices; and in cystic fibrosis patients, a defective gene causes secretions that plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

Compassion should be the first response to the suffering and ill, but Stanford said often what’s needed is care for both the illness and its emotional and psychological impacts.

“It’s not easy to suffer, it’s not easy to be in pain and have a chronic disease. For her and many people in this type of position, they are often facing depression,” Stanford said. “If you treat them for depression they don’t want to end their life anymore. That would be my experience with patients.”

Often those requesting aid in dying are seeking a way to control something that is out of their control, Stanford said. However, the need for control should be met with care and not succumbing to suicide.

Colorado lawmakers recently defeated a bill that would have allowed physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in the state. Experts expect the issues to resurrect next session.

Sarah Zagorski of LifeNews.com contributed to this report.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.