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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.”

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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.


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