To remove dying child from ventilator moral?

My BIL’s great-nephew just turned 3 a few days ago. He has been battling cancer for months with no hope. It has come to pass that there is nothing more science can do for him, he cannot breathe on his own, and tomorrow he will be taken off of the ventilator.

My sister and the baby’s mother are very close and watching this little boy struggle has been heartbreaking.

I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, the child cannot survive. The cancer began in his brain and has spread throughout his body in spite of chemo. But is it morally acceptable to remove him from the ventilator that is keeping him alive, even artificially?

Short answer is yes. Long answer has to do with ordinary vs. extraordinary care. Ordinary care is always obligatory; extraordinary care isn’t, especially given the circumstances that there is no hope of recovery.

Sorry to hear about this little guy. I’ll keep him in prayer.

Teilhard de Chardin once said that true misery entered the world when a reflective consciousness became a witness to its own diminishment. This is one of the most personal, tragic situations where we need all the faith we can muster in a merciful God. The inability to help a loved one is a terrible internal loss of self any mother or father can identify with. Take me instead comes to the lips of any loving soul. But it is not some horrid monster that is taking our loved ones. It is a loving Father welcoming His sons and daughters. We just can’t feel his loving breath on our necks at this time as we are not being as warmly hugged as our dying child.
The wise post previous to mine is absolutely correct in the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary assistance to the dying. You can turn off external machines but you must maintain food and water and assist in pain relief even it as a secondary effect it quickens the resistance of the dying individual.
But all this sophistry runs dry in the mouth of the true lover, who most beautifully and most selfishly wants just one more minute with their loved one. This is the time to sacrifice our will to the Will of the Greater Lover and relinquish our great treasure into the home prepared for them in the house of the Lord Most High. And who of us does not yearn for such a home coming… but not just yet. Are we not complete fools in our refusal to accept our own faith?

buc_fan33 is 100% correct in post 2.

You don’t have to move heaven and earth to keep someone alive. You just have to provide ordinary care. Everyone has a time to live and a time to die.

I know it is difficult. My 4 year old daughter died of Leukemia in 1996. We had her in hospice for several months. We did what we could and then some. It was her time.


I agree with buc_fan33; I believe he’s absolutely correct.

I’m saying a rosary for this poor child.


Praying for this child, and also for his family.

Father has said it very well. You don’t need a second priest to weigh in and say the same thing – although I have to add that I will also be praying for him and for all of you. May the Blessed Virgin, Health of the Sick, herself present this child to her Divine Son on her feast day.

I trust, of course, he has been baptised. Personally, I always went on ahead and confirmed an infant or young child when in this situation, per canon 891.

May the Lord be there to comfort and console all his family in this impossibly painful moment.

What the others have said is correct. I just wanted to add that I will pray for your grand-nephew and for comfort for all those who love him.

I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.

I have permission to use names on this forum and social media. The family is asking for prayers. The mother and father are Melissa and Myron. The child is Julius.

Melissa had twin daughters, Danielle and Destiny, who were born with defects. Danielle died shortly after birth and Destiny passed away at 6 years old, 2 years ago. I cannot imagine the agony Melissa must be feeling, losing her 3rd child.

Prayers are most appreciated.

Thank you, all, for your responses. I am relieved to know that it is moral to stop extraordinary care and allow Julius to pass on.

Prayers for your family.

The best source is to call the National Catholic Bioethics Center (rec. by Catholic Answers)
And ask for to talk with an ethicist.

I echo this. At this stage, the most important thing is making sure he’s baptized and confirmed. Given the gravity of the situation, any priest can also administer confirmation. A lot of people want the baby to receive the Anointing of the Sick as well. However, that sacrament is really only for those who have reached the age of reason, as it involves the forgiveness of personal sin, which is impossible to commit prior to reaching the age of reason.

Again, my condolences to you. I offered my Night Prayer last night for this little guy and your family.


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