Heaven Over Hospital: Oregon Parents to Allow Five-Year-Old to Choose Death Over Treatment

Snow-compressedPORTLAND, Ore. — A couple in Oregon has announced that they are planning on following their five-year-old daughter’s wishes not to return to the hospital when she becomes sick again, opting for “heaven over the hospital.”

Julianna Snow was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) at the age of two after numerous visits to the doctor in an effort to understand her developmental problems and weakness in her arms and legs.

Her mother, Michelle, a neurologist, soon found that her husband, Steve, had CMT in a mild form and realized that their daughter might have genetically inherited the ailment. Snow underwent treatments and physical therapy to fight the CMT, but struggled with weakened lung muscles that made it hard to breathe and also experienced difficulty swallowing.

Sometimes she contracted pneumonia, and doctors became concerned about what might be the outcome if she acquired another infection. Most die from CMT, regarded as a terminal illness, by the age of two, but Snow had already beat the statistics.

According to CNN, which interviewed Michelle Snow, Julianna expressed to her parents that she hated going to the hospital. Her parents would explain why she needed to go, and that even though her treatments were unpleasant, it allowed her to get better so she could come home.

One day, after the then four-year-old girl would not respond to her parents explanations as to why the hospital was helping her get better, her mother decided to talk to her about her wishes. Snow posted the conversation as best as she remembered it on her blog.

“Julianna, if you get sick again, do you want to go to the hospital again or stay home?” she asked.

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“Not the hospital,” Julianna replied.

“Even if that means that you will go to Heaven if you stay home?” Snow inquired.

“Yes,” Julianna replied. “I hate NT (naso-tracheal suction, a procedure where a tube is placed into one’s nose and down their throat to clean their lungs). I hate the hospital.”

“[I]f you go to the hospital, it may help you get better and let you come home again and spend more time with us,” her mother reasoned. “I need to make sure that you understand that. Hospital may let you have more time with mommy and daddy.”

“I understand,” Juliana stated, acknowledging that her mother will miss her. “God will take care of me. He’s in my heart.”

“She made it clear that she doesn’t want to go through the hospital again,” Snow told CNN. “So we had to let go of that plan because it was selfish.”

“If she gets sick, we’ll ask her again, and we’ll honor her wishes,” she further explained in a recent blog post.

But medical ethics professor Art Caplan of the New York University Medical Center believes that the choice should not be left up to the girl.

“I was very concerned. I know it’s difficult to intrude into personal family matters but the family brought this out to the open,” he told local television station KATU. “[A]t five-years-old, a little girl can’t make make these decisions.”

“Obviously you want to listen to her, but I don’t think you can make such weighty decisions and the parents can’t rely on that for the basis for what they are going to do,” Caplan continued.


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  • Y2U

    I don’t think a 5-yr-old has the capability to make this decision for herself. Kids can’t understand that there’s more to life than what’s happening today. That is…a day or two of misery being treated leaves you with 362 or 363 good days. We don’t kill ourselves because we have the flu (2-3 day illness). Why would you let a child do that?

    • April J

      I don’t think you can compare her condition with the flu. This is obviously much more serious than that. I don’t think she’s getting those 362 good days…it seems to be much fewer than that.

      • MamaBear

        CMT severely weakens muscles and damages nerves causing ever decreasing mobility. Even between breathing treatments, she lives with that. And because it is progressive, eventually there will be too much damage for the lung treatments to even work. This disease was once considered a form of muscular dystrophy. It is nothing like the flu.
        As I said in an earlier comment, we cannot tell from the article if the disease has reached the point where treatments should be suspended or not, but at some point a decision will have to be made about whether to continue treatments or just try to keep her as comfortable as possible until natural death. This is not the same thing as suicide or euthanasia.
        We need to pray for this little girl and her parents.

    • Josey

      Most die from this condition or don’t live very long so comparing to the flu, are you kidding? And most children have more faith in God than adults and you cannot judge her as not understanding, she understands by her own statement that she would be going to Jesus and leaving her family and she is ready for that.

    • MamaBear

      I strongly oppose assisted suicide or euthanasia. But, at the same time, there is a time to stop treatments and allow natural death, which is what this is talking about. We cannot tell from the article if this is really such a point, but the disease is terminal, and this call will eventually have to be made, whether now is the right time or not. And, no, I would not let a 5 year old make that decision, but I would talk to her about it.
      I have stage 4 cancer. Right now treatments are working, but they are not a cure. Someday, I will run out of effective treatments (they are changed with every new recurrence) and I and my family will face similar decisions, except I am an adult. So, I fully understand how hard it is to decide when it is time to let go, to stop treatments, to stop fighting.
      I feel compassion for this family and I admire the faith of this little girl.
      And please do not compare terminal illnesses and their treatments to a few days of the flu.

      • latinovet

        Keep fighting the good fight Mama Bear!
        With God, all is possible!

        • MamaBear

          Thank you.

          • latinovet

            Thank YOU for all that you do!

          • Ribaldo Audace

            Mama Bear may be the god of this site, but she is not God.

          • Ribaldo Audace

            Indeed!

    • Jolanda Tiellemans

      So you’re a doctor? You know how that child is feeling, how sick she is?

  • CowGirl

    Are you kidding me!!! A 5 yr old child is NOT able to make responsible choices like that! NO kid wants to go to the Hospital! Think about that statement as a cop out, It comes across really bad! Why don’t you do some well educated and documented research and get both your husband and daughter on Cannabis oil!!! I would do/try ANYTHING if it meant saving the people I loved! Don’t give up in despair!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz Chuck Anziulewicz

    If both this little girl and her parents are convinced that she will end up in the arms of Jesus after she dies, why not allow her the option? It’s freedom of religion, isn’t it?

    • bowie1

      My parents allowed their just newborn to let nature its course back in 1953, a child who had a hole in the heart that could not be fixed. After about 10 hours “Simmie” passed into the arms of Jesus. (My father, 88, also passed away yesterday with we, his family, around the hospital bed, with no extraordinary means used until he “flatlined”. It is always hard to let go.)

    • Sandi Luckins

      no Chuck. You are proposing freedom of suicide.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz Chuck Anziulewicz

        Doctors love you. Keeping people “alive” as long as possible, even they are persistent vegetative states with no hope of recovery, is $$$$$ for them. That’s why the medical establishment argues so vigorously against “Death with Dignity” laws.

        • bowie1

          From what I have read it is the medical establishment that has sometimes hastened a patients death without their consent. Such has been the accusation in the Netherlands for instance.

          • Jolanda Tiellemans

            Wrong accusation. If you’re able to read dutch I can proof it.

        • Sandi Luckins

          Chuck, doctors are not in control. Jesus is.

  • April J

    She seems to understand the consequences of not going to the hospital. I kind of envy her that she has such a strong and unquestioning fate that she’s willing to trust God so much. I don’t think many of us could say the same.

    • Cosmic Mastermind

      She’s 5 years old, she has no concept of death.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz Chuck Anziulewicz

        None of us have any concept of death until ….

  • Josey

    Bless her heart, I disagree that she doesn’t understand about passing on, she knows where she is going, the faith of a child, this is a lot different than assisted suicide, she has chosen not to go back to the hospital to continue with what she feels is horrible and instead wants to be home to spend with her family. Jesus will keep her in His arms. My prayer is for physical healing but His will be done not mine, Jesus is able and one way or another she is going to be healed. How precious she is to Him!

    • Jade

      My heart feels pain for this poor child and her family. When you say “Jesus will keep her in his arms”, do you mean after the 2nd coming of Christ? This is the only accurate message the Bible states if you are a fundamentalist. If you believe something different than what the Bible states, like this child goes immediately in the arms of Jesus, then you must not be a fundamentalist.

      • Nidalap

        Just couldn’t help yourself, could you…

        • Jade

          I could not help myself by telling you the truth. If some Christians want to use scripture as a weapon against other people (LGBT), then it is fair game that they should at least know the truth about other issues like death.

          • MamaBear

            But what you are saying I not the truth. You are twisting meanings.

      • Josey

        No, you are wrong once again the bible makes it clear what it says happens when one passes on. Jesus told the man on the cross who was repentant that this day that man would be with Jesus in paradise and Jesus gave another example what happens to evil people who do not repent, they wake up in hell. I believe the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Now, what do you believe? Do you believe what Jesus says is true? Where are you going to spend eternity?

        • MamaBear

          And Paul said that for the believer to be “absent from the body” was to be “present with the Lord.”

          • Jade

            Paul did say this because he knew that the second he died, he would have no awareness, the dead know nothing as stated in the OT. When the 2nd coming would occur, Paul would go directly from death to being with Jesus as you stated in the quoted scripture.

          • MamaBear

            Have you got any scriptures to actually back that up?
            The rich man in hell was quite aware when he asked if Lazarus could bring him water. And Jesus told the thief on the cross “THIS DAY you will be with me in Paradise.” In Revelation, the martyrs are asking God when He will avenge them.

          • Jade

            For an example of putting the comma in the wrong location read Deuteronomy 4:40. For examples of the dead having no awareness read Job 3:13-19, Job 14:10-12, Psalm 115:17, Ecclesiastes 8:5-10. If you look at the parable of “the rich man and Lazarus”, the rich man had eyes and a tongue. He would have to have a spiritual body in order for this to occur. The transformation according to the Bible would not occur until the 2nd coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Jesus used the parable to show that the Pharisees were so evil that even if someone rose from the dead, they would not listen to him. So when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and also his own resurrection, many of them still did not believe.

          • MamaBear

            Deuteronomy 4:40 just speaks of “prolonging your days” in other words, living long. Hebrew has no commas. Job 13 speaks of death as rest, which it is for those of us who go to Heaven, not unconsciousness. Did you even bother reading the verses you listed in Job 14? The passage in Ecclesiastes speaks of the dead being forgotten by those on earth. As to the verse from Psalms, here is what the Matthew Henry Commentary says about that verse: “The souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burdens of the flesh, are still praising him; but the dead body cannot praise God: death puts an end to our glorifying him in this world of trial and conflict.”

          • Jade

            I know that there were no commas used when the scriptures were written. That is why I used Deuteronomy 4:40 to compare to Luke 23:43.” I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” could also be “I assure you today, you will be with me in paradise”. Compare that to Deuteronomy “If you obey all the laws and commands that I will give you today, all will be well with you and your children”. See my point? Ecclesiastes 8:5 says “…but the dead know nothing” and Ecclesiastes 8:10 says “…For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom”. It can’t be anymore clear than that.

          • MamaBear

            You are disagreeing with interpretations made by men and women who are experts in Hebrew and Greek. You are mistakenly assuming the English word order matches the original languages. You are also assuming no deeper word meanings than is found in English translations.

            The only point I see is that you are proving that you know nothing of the original languages.

            שתהיה לך שלווה

          • Dave_L

            “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

            “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” (2 Corinthians 5:2–3)

            “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

        • Jade

          You people are so laughable. You read only what you want to believe. To believe what you are saying, you have to delete a lot of scripture. The people who were alive during Biblical times had no problem accepting that judgement would only occur at the 2nd coming of Christ because they expected it to happen within a very short period of time. Because it has taken more than 2000 years and still no 2nd coming, people like you have to take an unclear verse and make it your only focus. There were no commas used when originally written. If Jesus was accurately quoted (and why would we believe it was accurate since all 4 Gospels have a different quotation from Jesus), then if you put a comma after today, it would support the rest of the Bible – nobody goes to heaven or hell until the 2nd coming of Christ. Also do you even realize that if you want to put the comma before today, Jesus did not go to heaven until 3 days later. Sorry, not that day.

          • Dave_L

            “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Matthew 17:1–4)

          • Jade

            The transfiguration was certainly not a literal reality, but what Jesus plainly said was a “vision”. Also does the scripture say he brought them from heaven – no. He could have just as easily brought them from the grave if you want to try and take this scene literally. If you read John 3:13, you will see that Jesus is quoted as saying “For only I, have come to earth and will return to heaven again”. Also, Peter states in Acts 2:34 “For David himself never ascended into heaven”. Again, there is a mountain of evidence that clearly states that nothing happens to good or bad until the 2nd coming of Jesus. If you don’t like what is written in the Bible, then you are free to believe something else. Just don’t use the Bible to support your statements.

          • Dave_L

            “Vision” in Greek = ① someth. that is viewed with one’s eye, someth. seen, sight, vision (acc. to Artem. 1, 2 p. 5, 19 ὅραμα is someth. that can actually be seen, in contrast to 5, 17 φάντασμα=a figment of the imagination;

            Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 718). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

      • gizmo23

        Why would anybody want to be a fundamentalist?

        • Sandi Luckins

          the Bible is fundamental for living. Do you have a problem with that?

          • gizmo23

            I

          • gizmo23

            I guess I have a problem with the definition

      • bowie1

        Fundamentalists follow normal Christian beliefs that we go immediately to be with the Lord forever.

        • Jade

          You are correct. Fundamentalist don’t like what the scriptures actually say, so they only focus on a few unclear verses. Telling people the truth that nobody is currently in heaven or hell has got to be bad for business – church business.

          • bowie1

            According to the Bible we go to be with the Lord when we draw our last breath, or those who have rejected the Savior will be separated eternally in Hell. The man on the cross asked the Lord to remember him when He comes into His kingdom and Jesus says that he would be with him that day. I’m not sure how it would be “bad for business” if it were as you claim, since the gospel is all about hope to be with the Lord forever, even if it were to be later, but that’s not what it says.

          • Jade

            I believe most people like religion because it is self serving, they want to get something for their worship. If people followed what the Bible actually states about death (nobody goes anywhere until the 2nd coming), some people probably would stop going to church. Jesus himself is quoted as saying in Matthew 16:27 that some of the people standing and listening to him will not die before he returns again (2nd coming) -that was wrong. So people might start believing that Jesus is never going to return to earth since more than 2000 years has gone by without the 2nd coming, and would stop coming to church which would hurt the churches financially.

          • bowie1

            It hasn’t hurt soul sleeping sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Christadelphians.

  • Rebecca

    Only the little girl knows what she is experiencing with the treatments. If she chooses to not do the treatments and wants to die naturally then I think that is fine. If she would be choosing help to die unnaturally, then I would disagree with that. God is able. He knows when we are to die.

    • Sandi Luckins

      God is able, and if He wanted her in Heaven this young, He knows how to take care of that. Suicide is not the answer.

  • jmichael39

    When it comes down to it, the parents are still making the decision. They merely are allowing their daughter to be the guidance in what they decide to do. I can never say what they should do here. It is a decision I would never wish upon anyone.

  • Heather Corbin

    I dont think i could give her what she wants. Naso-trachea suction to clean out her lungs? The little one knows she will go to heaven without treatment yes, but, do her and her parents know that its probably not going to be nice seeing her die like this at home?….what i mean is if she needs naso-trachea suction (and i dont mean to be graphic), but, instead of just falling asleep like this little girl thinks is going to happenwont not having her lungs suctioned mean she will actually sit there suffocating to death slowly without treatment? I couldnt do that as a mother or father with holding treatment….it said many die from this but, it did also say in her case she is making improvement…..not sure what kind of improvement but, improvement.

  • Dave_L

    Some questions; Is this a form of assisted suicide? Are we to reject the trials God appoints for us? The parents are reportedly Pentecostal or Charismatic. No doubt they would have prayed for healing. Are they now showing a lack of faith?

  • Sandi Luckins

    There is one reason why one is the parent, and one is the child. Parents are supposed to know better. Suicide is not love. Why did that parent not tell the child that she has value, rather than that she is disposable because something is wrong with her. Shame on them.

  • Tammy

    Have you asked God what His will for her is? Is it a miracle for testimony or eternal rest in heaven

    • Dave_L

      “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:15) So either way, in life or death, the Lord will heal (save) her.

  • acontraryview

    Based upon the comments below, would it be reasonable to conclude that most people on here would agree with the husband’s position, rather than the parent’s, in the case of Terry Shavio?

    • LadyFreeBird<In God I Trust

      They hopefully will not do as he did ti his *wife* by depriving her of food and water. Just refusing treatment.
      With Terry Shavio he starved her to death legally. This little girl will not get the treatment but will receive food and water. There is a difference Between Terry and this little girl. At least I hope there is. What was done to Terry was wrong in my thinking. Her parents did not want her to die that way. They wanted natural death not death by starvation. I wish the best for this little girl.

  • BalancedMind

    If the future of the child is only one of suffering, and no chance of improvement, and continuing life can is depending on medical intervention, it is not suicide to stop the medical intervention, but merciful letting her go. Sad for the parents, and sad for the child. But I respect the parents very difficult decision to stand by their daughter in her last wish.