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Monday, January 24, 2011

Drowned Toddler a Case of Euthanasia?

Is the tragic drowning of a disabled toddler in Sydney an indirect consequence of publicity given to the merits of legalised euthanasia?

Three years ago, two-year-old Maia Comas drowned in an inflatable pool. Despite a lengthy investigation which ended this week, a coroner was still unable to decide whether her death in the beachside suburb of Curl Curl had been an accident. But he did say that the circumstances suggested "great irresponsibility" on the part of her parents.

Two months before her death, Maia was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a disorder that often leaves sufferers with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. Her parents, 36-year-old Pablo Comas and 31-year-old Samantha Razniak were shaken by the news.

Their ramshackle home was in the beachside suburb of Curl Curl -- "two hippies living in a house playing guitar," in Mr Comas's words. They felt utterly unprepared for the burden of caring for their daughter.

After the tentative diagnosis, they probed Maia's pediatrician about the legal and medical position of euthanasia for children with incurable but non-terminal conditions. The doctor - who had never heard such a request -- responded "this is not an option under Australian Law and any action causing harm in any way is a criminal act. Any action causing death actively or passively would be considered murder."

But Ms Razniak was at her wits' end. She rattled government social workers by telling them: "Do you understand that she will grow into a young woman and have the mind of a 2 to 10 year old. The head, hands and feet all stop growing. I don't want to see my daughter become a monster, to become ugly... I'd rather her die now than die slowly."

When she was reassured by social workers that she could get government support, she responded, that the only support she was interested in was euthanasia. "I want to get on with my life and not see all this ugliness - clinics, home disabled people, doctors."

Mr Comas felt much the same. He once asked a social worker: "Why do they keep children with these disabilities alive? It doesn't seem fair on the children."

The social workers were alarmed by the parents' attitude, but the case seems to have fallen between the cracks. On December 3, 2007, Maia's visiting grandmother discovered her floating in a unfenced wading pool. Her mother, who was a trained swimming instructor who was working at a childcare centre, was too "freaked out" to revive her. Maia was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.~ The Australian, Jan 15

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