To Err on the Side of Life- By Elizabeth Kunz

To Err on the Side of Life

“You need to go downstairs and get a priest if you want her baptized before she dies.” As a 3 week old infant with bacterial meningitis, my chances for survival were not good. In fact, the pediatrician told my parents I would surely die, which was a good thing because if I lived I would be in a vegetative state.

In over 35 plus years as a Pediatric/Neonatal Intensive Care nurse, I have seen this mindset among healthcare providers countless times. The value of a child’s life is measured by the functional status it is believed they will have and the burden a family will bear in caring for them. When a patient’s condition threatens to inconvenience our lives and call for self-sacrifice, the medical advice can be to withdraw care from the patient so they will perish. 

While working as a home health nurse, I once took care of a baby named Kyle. Kyle had been born premature and lived with deafness, blindness, developmental delay and chronic lung disease. He required round the clock care. Eventually the strain of his condition wore on the mother. After she consulted with her healthcare provider, she was swayed to believe that the stress on the family’s resources was too great a sacrifice to bear. Kyle was placed in a nursing home. Without the more intensive care, he shortly succumbed to pneumonia.

This world view is a dangerous one for us all. Any one of us could find ourselves or a loved one vulnerable and in the hands of a healthcare provider who does not recognize the value of human life. Man has value because we are created in His image. All mankind is called to be sacrificial for others and to value another’s life as we value our own.

I saw the best example of a healthcare provider recognizing human value while working in a large city hospital. A new MD took charge of our NICU. His philosophy was built on a belief that we cannot know what will become of each life who crosses our path. He told us “to err on the side of life”. To do everything we could for each child in order to give it every chance at life. 

In Luke 10:20, the Parable of the Good Samaritan shows the heart healthcare providers should display. When another is in need, show mercy. Life was not given to man to pursue wealth, or fame or ease, but to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbor as ourselves.