Ending a loved one's life is a difficult process often undertaken to spare them from pain and suffering. But Charlotte Fitzmaurice, though saddened, stands by her decision to end her 12-year-old daughter's life.
“Although I will live with the guilt forever, I know I have done everything I can for her and she is at peace," Fitzmaurice told the Daily Mirror.
The British woman underwent and won a landmark victory in August at the High Court of Justice, one of the senior courts in England, when a judge granted her permission to end the life of her 12-year-old daughter Nancy, who was born blind with hydrocephalus, meningitis, and sepsis. Fitzmaurice argued that Nancy's health deficiences caused the girl chronic pain, and that death would put her at peace, according to the Mirror.
"She was screaming and writhing in agony 24 hours a day," Fitzmaurice said. "Not being able to ease her suffering was too much to bear."
Justice Eleanor King approved the mother's request on Aug. 7, defying previous rulings that required a person to be terminally ill and in need of life-support to be eligible for euthanasia. Nancy, who was breathing on her own, did not meet either of these standards, according to The Daily Beast.
“The love, devotion, and competence of Nancy’s mother are apparent,” King told The Daily Beast. “Please, can you tell Nancy’s mother I have great admiration for her?”
Nancy who died on August 21 was born blind and suffered from hydrocephalus, meningitis and septicaemia, keeping her from walking, talking, eating or drinking without assistance. The cause of these deficiencies was an undiagnosed case of Group B Streptococcus, a bacterial infection commonly found in a mother's rectum or vagina, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Fitzmaurice was unaware that she was carrying the infection when she was pregant with Nancy until two days before her birth and was told that her baby would most likely not be live to see her fourth birthday.
Nancy, though she lived far beyond four, only suffered more, experiencing epileptic seizures and being diagnosed with lissencephaly and microcephaly, nerological disorders of the brain. But her troubles only worsened after an operation two years ago to remove kidney stones left her with an infection that put her through chronic pain all the time. At the time of her death, Nancy was suffering from intestinal failure in which her body could not process any food or liquids without her feeling pain for hours.
"It killed me there was nothing I could do to help her," she said. "All the nurses were in tears as they saw her screaming. All I wanted was for my daughter to die with dignity with me holding her hand."
Fitzmaurice consulted the ethics board of Great Ormond Street hospital where Nancy was being treated. Doctor's informed her there was nothing more they could do for Nancy and that pain relievers, such as morphine and ketamine were no longer working. Fitzmaurice then asked the hospital to end her daughter's life, but the doctors said they could not remove all fluids and that it could take months for Nancy to die even if her feeding tube was removed, according to the Mirror.
Seeking to end her daugher's pain in any way possible, Fitzmaurice asked the hospital to present the case before the High Court. The hospital agreed.
In a statement read by King during court proceedings, Fitzmaurice says that her daughter has become a "shell" of the person she once was and therefore should be put at peace, according to The Mirror.
"The light from her eyes is now gone and is replaced with fear and a longing to be at peace...Today I am appealing to you for Nancy as I truly believe she has endured enough. For me to say that breaks my heart," said Fitzmaurice in her statement.
While some, including Nancy's father, David Wise support Fitzmaurice in her decision, others have condemned it, calling it "dangerous" and completely "inappropriate."
"In cases where painkillers are insufficient, a number of alternatives for pain management exist" said the Austistic Self Advocacy Network in a press release on the matter. "A policy of euthanasia targets vulnerable people, particularly when it is applied to children. People with disabilities who experience chronic pain should have same access as others to life-sustaining medical treatment."
But Fitzmaurice, though feeling guilty, told The Mirror that she is happy her daughter is free of pain. She and Wise, who were seperated before, are now together again and have set up The Nancy Wise Fund, a chairty to help parents afford funeral costs for their children.