Immigrant Family Forced to Watch Mother Dehydrated to Death

ChelseaPro Life15 Comments

While a family is fighting for the right to care for their sick child In Canada, here in America a family has been removed from making medical decisions for their mother. After a stroke left her severely brain damaged, Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, a legal immigrant from Rwanda, has been given a court-appointed guardian who has ordered her feeding tube removed against her family’s wishes. From the story (h/t Wesley Smith):

On Feb. 19, Ms. Nyirahabiyambere’s feeding tube was removed on the order of her court-appointed guardian. Her six adult children — including two United States citizens — vehemently opposed that decision. But they were helpless to block it when Georgetown University Medical Center, frustrated in its efforts to discharge Ms. Nyirahabiyambere after she had spent eight costly months there without insurance, sought a guardian to make decisions that the family would not make.

“Now we are powerless spectators, just watching our mother die,” said Mr. Ndayishimiye, 33, who teaches health information management at the State University of New York’s Institute of Technology in Utica. “In our culture, we would never sentence a person to die from hunger.”

In emails to their mother’s guardian, Nyirahbiyambere’s sons say that they are fine with “do not hospitalize”/”do not resuscitate” orders, but insist that their mother would not want her feeding tube removed. Said one son:

“Ending someone’s life by hunger is morally wrong and unrecognized in the culture of the people of Rwanda”

to which Mrs. Sloan had the audacity to respond:

“You have asked for understanding about your culture and that is exactly what I am trying to do. Feeding tubes are not part of your culture, are they?”

So, the United States should treat every immigrant the same way he or she would be treated in their native country? That’s the standard for healthcare in America? Unbelievable. And this woman calls herself a nurse??

According to the article, Sloan insists that the issue with the feeding tube essentially has nothing to do with insurance and money, but later admits that her client’s life is ultimately just not worth the cost of keeping her alive:

“Hospitals cannot afford to allow families the time to work through their grieving process by allowing the relatives to remain hospitalized until the family reaches the acceptance stage, if that ever happens…Generically speaking, what gives any one family or person the right to control so many scarce health care resources in a situation where the prognosis is poor, and to the detriment of others who may actually benefit from them?”

Does anyone else find it tragically ironic that, after escaping genocide and hunger in her native land, this woman is now being starved to death in the country she fled to for freedom? As of late Thursday afternoon last week, Ms. Nyirahabiyambere was still alive – almost two weeks after the feeding tube was removed.

Oh, and, by the way, this is being done at a self-described Catholic hospital.

Again – Awful. Awful. Awful.

Food and Water are Universal Human Rights
JP II, the Church on Withdrawing Nutrition and Hydration

15 Comments on “Immigrant Family Forced to Watch Mother Dehydrated to Death”

  1. I am going to play devils advocate here. We know what the Churche’s current teaching is on this issue. As long as there is no medical reason to suspect the immanent approach of death, hydration and nutrition are morally demanded along with normal and careing bodily care. The only exception would be if applying hydration and nutrition were too discomforting to the patient or too expensive. One can conceive of many situations where these procedures would certainly be too expensive for the family ( and it certainly would be in this case). Is it not also possible for these procedures to be too expensive for an institution and/or for society? The Church has not really discussed this point to my satisfaction. It usually stops at stating the moral demands. It never states who is responsible if the family can’t bear the expense. It is just a little too easy to point an accusing finger at an institution or at society.

    For a long time society has given such care to helpless invalids. This care has cost astronomical sums. At one time in the history of nations in the West, this care was given only by religious orders, sometimes with the aid of lay institutes. Outside the West such care has never and is not now available. The question is how long can we continue it.

  2. So sad that these liberal Catholics who claim to care about the poor have to show their true priorities where the rubber meets the road and practice their pseudo charity upon this family.

    Such people claim that its all about the people (and that God and doctrine are trivial) often end up contradicting themselves in the end.

    They claim to care about human lives and therefore promote the murder of innocent children (commonly known as “abortion”).

    They shout that the lives of people are so important and that is why the murder of the elderly (commonly call “euthanasia”) is so necessary.

    People need to be “empowered” and that is why they preach “population control” (murdering children via abortion, etc as well as the elderly and those not viewed as “viable” as in the case of this woman). Interestingly enough they also tend to target the poor and immigrants just like their forbearer Margret Sanger (who was involved in racial eugenics and population control also).

    Interesting how if they obeyed Catholic doctrine they wouldn’t be practicing these horrors and would be more interesting in saving lives. Goes to show their fight is not for people but primarily against Catholic doctrine and as such contradicts what they originally claimed was more important (well at least publically). They will sacrifice anything upon the altar of their idealogy which is usually written as SELF. All too typical. May God have mercy upon all involved in this horrid affair.

  3. Another devil’s advocate here. People who don’t know the medical profession from the inside, don’t necessarily understand what an acute care hospital is for and why it is so expensive – hundreds and hundreds per day just for the bed.

    An acute care hospital is for treating seriously ill or injured people who are in the process of getting better, and the expensive treatment and care they receive at the hospital is given to help their medical condition to improve.

    If the treatment they are receiving at the hospital is no longer helping to improve their medical condition (not *sustain* it, *improve* it), then an acute care hospital is not the place where they should be receiving help.

    A nursing home or rehabilitation center would be the medically correct place for a person who needs the lifesaving assistance of a feeding tube and round the clock nursing care, etc., but whose condition is not expected to improve significantly.

    Unfortunately, nursing homes and rehab centers don’t have the mandate that hospitals have. Hospitals have the mandate to provide acute care to the sick and injured, even those who cannot afford to pay. Again, the idea is that the sick and injured who cannot afford to pay will get well and be able to go home. If the person is not getting well in the hospital, but cannot go home, then they are in a place they don’t belong.

    I know of families who provide feeding tube care and nursing care at home for such patients. Unfortunately the nutritional supplements are tremendously expensive . . . the family would have a difficult time affording to pay for this food, unless their mother were in the hospital and the *hospital* was underwriting the cost of the food.

    Anyway, theoretically, if all the mother needs is nursing care and feeding tube care, this could be done at home by family members, who could be trained by visiting nurses. The problem is, the family cannot afford to do this. So the problem is money, once agin.

    I don’t have the answers. It’s difficult to know what can be done.

  4. And now I will be God’s advocate. The teaching of the Church on this issue is absolutely correct and binding on all consciences. But that does not end the debate. Let’s not be too quick to cast stones. Hospitals today ,especially Catholic hospitals, find themselves in an intolerable situation. They are trapped by ever more secular rules and regulations inimical to Catholic teaching and find perhaps too little support from their own Catholic communities. If Georgetown sinned, the sin was not entirely their own.
    They erred in petitioning for a court appointed guardian and then by implementing the directives of that guardian. The family erred in not stepping forward themselves as guardians ( perhaps they did and were denied). But the guilt belongs to all of us. What have we done to correct and reform inhumane structures which made this situation possible? Who, for example have we voted for that we knew opposed Catholic moral teaching? What candidates for office did we support and campaign for who would support Catholic moral teaching? What have we personally given of our time, talent and treasure to support the disabled and the institutions which care for them? Are we members of L’Arche or a similar organization which devotes ” hands on ” care to the disabled and incapacitated?” Are we out there somewhere changing diapers and feeding the incapacitated, cleaning up the messes, washing the bodies of those who can’t wash themselves? Have we given up our suburban life styles, our $30,000 cars, our alcohol and beer tabs, our Chiefs tickets, our March Madness tickets, that Harvard education for the kids, etc to make sure there is financial support for those who can give hands on care? Have we taken to heart, have we absorbed, really, the Lord’s invitation to ” …to sell all that we have and give to the poor..? ” Unless we truely recognize that our talent, our time, and our treasure is only ” on loan ” and to be used to attend to the needs of our neighbor, especially the most dependent and helpless, then we have not gotten the message. Unless we have done all these things then we share the guilt! So let’s not be too quick to condemn.

  5. 6 adult children – can none of them help pay for the care of their mother? As an adult whose father had a massive stroke, was hospitalized, and was eventually ASKED himself if he wanted the feeding tube removed (even with his “do not hospitalize etc he chose to keep it in), I know how expensive it is. However, I gave $3000 of my money to help, and it was money I needed – but was willing to give up. No it wasn’t much – but if I had more brothers and sisters and relatives, this amount could have added up.

    When do we as children start accepting that some of the responsibility of taking care of our elders is OUR job. They sacrificed and took care of us growing up – it’s time to step up to the plate and do it for them.

    I have also seen abuse of the system. As the mother of foster children, I have seen that their medical records are all solely at the hospitals – that way their previous parents didn’t have to pay! Even for a simple cold! So I understand frustration from the hospitals for caring for people (which is their job) – but also having to foot the bill.

    It sounds like the hospital has done what it could for a period of time – now they need an answer and help/cooperation from the family.

  6. This seems absurd. Feeding someone shouldn’t be that expensive. Can’t food be processed through a blender to be put through the tube? We adopted a brain damaged infant who came with a nasal-gastric tube. He got baby formula at home.

    Seems like the Visiting Nurse Association or Pernet Family Services could provide a little support, or the State’s Medicaid program, and the family could do the rest of the care at home…

    Or are there other medical conditions and costs going on that are not mentioned in this article?

    All that aside, the hospital is acting horribly. When we can’t discharge a patient through other means, we do so by killing them? Awful, awful, awful.

    If there is other, extraordinary care that is too expensive, that might be stopped. But not feeding.

  7. “Devil’s advocate?” What an appropriate term to use when leaving such a comment. To be Catholic is to be EVERY circumstance. We cannot be “cafeteria style” Catholics on pro-life issues, well, on ANY issues. The faith of the pagan Greek woman tells us that even foreigners are worthy of compassion, as our Lord showed her….

    “In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

    “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

    “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

    Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

    She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” Mark 7:25-30

  8. Maybe if the 50 million babies hadn’t been aborted, who would have grown up to be taxpayers, there would be the money to pay for the nutrition and hydration of this woman.

  9. When it comes to this topic we can’t say much. Life should be preserverd no matter what but in case like this, we have to consider a lot of things. By the way, you might be interested in one of the most complete and helpful sites on adaptive clothing.Thanks and more power!

  10. Does the bishop know that this has happened? I would love to see this bishop strip Georgetown Hospital of its catholic identity just as Bishop Olmstead did in Phoenix and Bishop Vasa did in Oregon. I do agree with Sharon. But I have an advanced directive that is witnessed and on file that states if I am unable to feed myself to go ahead and use a feeding tube. Do not go to extraordinary lengths to revive me, but under no circumstances may you remove the feeding tube. My husband and my priest are my named guardians. If people would simply fill one of these out when they are still lucid, a lot of pain can be avoided.

  11. “Ending someone’s life by hunger is morally wrong and unrecognized in the culture of the people of Rwanda”

    So, the US people’s culture looks more primitive and barbarian than that of Rwanda.
    Who are the times being’s new “savages”?

  12. The headline of this story is, “Immigrant Family Forced to Watch Mother Dehydrated to Death,” which is pretty gruesome, no doubt about it.

    As I read more background on the story, however, I concluded that the word, “forced” although true at present, ought to be modified with additional information.

    It would be more like, “After Months of Dithering, and Refusal by Any of her Six Grown Children to Quit Their Jobs and Care for Their Mother at Home (Which Families of Hundreds of Feeding Tube Patients Do Quietly and Without Fuss Every Day of The Year in the U.S., And Even More So in The Family’s Homeland of Rwanda), Court Appoints A Guardian To Take Responsibility For This Situation; Having Repeatedly Abdicated Their Responsibility To Provide For or Care For Their Mother, Offspring Must Now Watch As Court-Appointed Evildoer Decress That Mother Must Starve to Death.”

    I also discovered that feeding tube food can be prepared at home from items available at the grocery store. It’s necessary to cook and to puree everything according to directions. Like making baby food at home was done before the advent of store-bought Gerber’s This can all be done at home by family, friends, and neighbors, as can bathing, changing, and exercising the patient’s limbs.

    My Takeaway: Adult Children who fail to do everything in their power to provide for their vulnerable parents during times of crisis, risk having their vulnerable parents fall into the hands of The Culture of Death.

  13. May I please be the “legal guardian” for that nurse? I was a nurse, and I can abide by HER cultural norm. Seriously though, how on earth can anyone justify NOT giving a thing as basic as hydration or nutrition? How can the outcry not shake the foundation of this hospital? Why is this hospitals’ Administration not shamed into resigning? Where did their humanity go?

  14. how old is this lady? At some point life isn’t being maintained, but death is being prevented! And yes, with 6 adult children, NONE of them can pay for care? Financial considerations are necessary whenever making these sorts of decisions. Prohibitive costs are definitely a factor!

    Finally, sad to say, many people from the Third World simply don’t have the education/wisdom to make informed decisions. I’ve seen it over and over again. In their countries these patients would have died long ago, but in the First World where we have the best medicine/technology these people have an unreasonable expectation of health and recovery. Massive brain damage with no functioning above the brain stem and a family from Nigeria are ‘expecting a miracle’ for their 83 y/o father. Please!

  15. This is morally wrong ,but the family no matter what has the ultimate responsibility of taking care of their mother at home . In their country She would have died or gone home to be cared for by her family.
    The book of Sirach says be kind to your father when he is old even if his mind fails him.I was raised up to help take care of my grandmother until she died.My family took care of our mother at home until she died.We all shared the responsibility either financially or physically.We gave up our house to move in with my in laws.My mother in law was total care bedridden unable to eat. I have 5 children everyone had a share either taking out the trash or carrying her into her wheel chair.turning her changing diapers bathing her.My daughters were 13 and learned to give g tube feedings ,her so I could go out . I worked full time doing this.
    I got frustrated and angry and resentful at times, lost lots of sleep. God gave us the strength to do this.There was prayer and lots of sacrifice.If I didn’t have God I could not have done this. Hopefully my children seeing this will take care of me,if not God will still be there. These poor suffering souls have a purpose in life they could be saving you and me.Love one another as I have loved you , No greater love than to give up your life for your brother. We are all called to do our part, All things are possible with God.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *