I’m genuinely glad to hear that 13 weeks premature baby, Kenda Mohamed, has beaten the odds and survived the worst of her medical problems. She was born in October 2012 weighing just 1.4lbs and suffered from numerous “conditions and infections” associated with her extreme prematurity. The doctors allegedly suggested 7 times that her life supporting care be discontinued, allowing Kenda to die, but her parents refused.
First, I’d like to point out that it’s unclear that Kenda will ever live a normal life. Her father states: “We don’t know if she will ever be able to walk or talk, it’s just too early, but we’re still keeping our hope that she will be able to lead an independent life.” This is pretty important to the thrust of the story, although it is mentioned in the original link as a kind of an afterthought, following several pictures of Kenda looking like the totally healthy and lucky baby that she may not really be.
Moreover, even if Kenda does turn out to lead a happy life with reasonably good health, the article announcing this miracle kind of misses the larger picture. It’s not that anyone wishes for sick babies to die. But the kind of intensive care that a less than 2lb baby requires in order to have even a minimal shot at life is immensely expensive.
As far as I can tell, most Scottish people use the publicly-funded National Health Services. This means that they are at the mercy of what services are approved for them and which are not. In such a medical care system, it is absolutely critical that the NHS remain financially solvent, because people have planned their lives and careers around it. As health care becomes more technologically advanced, some things get cheaper (e.g., generic drugs) but other things become much more expensive (e.g., neonatal units that would have previously had no choice but to allow some preemies to die).
Again, I’m not saying that dead babies are right or good. But the money has to come from somewhere. If the NHS isn’t careful, it could easily run into financial problems, the result of which would be having to deny life-saving treatments to babies with a great shot at surviving, or cancer patients with good odds for survival and families of their own.
The reason that Kenda is being billed as a kind of miracle baby is exactly because it was not reasonable to expect her to survive, or to survive in good health. The doctors were reasonable to suggest that she be removed from life support, and the state would have been justified in discontinuing funding for her care. It is more fair for the National Health Services to make rationing policies upfront than to spend wantonly on patients (like “miracle babies”) now, at the expense of arguably more compelling patients later.
People will point to this story, and miracle baby stories like it, as evidence that life support should never be removed from struggling patients. But the situation is just more complicated than that.