When Stephanie Hunter had to withdraw life support from her mother, her friends and family understood. They expressed their condolences, said she’d made the right decision, and some even shared stories about the tortured choices they had made for their own dying parents.
But four years later, when she and her husband had to make a similar decision for their terminally ill baby, they didn’t feel like anyone understood. A few family members thought they were giving up all hope for their child.
That’s why Stephanie and her husband, Justin, have remained quiet about the manner in which their son died three years ago. “They made us feel so ashamed,” she said.
But last week that ended. Stephanie said a CNN story about a family’s decision for their terminally ill 5-year-old was an important first step in changing the way people think about end-of-life decisions for terminally ill children. Now, she says, the shame is starting to disappear, the taboo starting to fade.
“I am so thankful for your (family’s) unbelievable bravery and strength in telling and standing by the decision your family has made,” she wrote in response to a blog written by the mother of the 5-year-old girl, Julianna Snow.
“We (chose) to forego further medical intervention as a means to end our child’s pain and unimaginable suffering,” she added on the Facebook page for a local television state that carried CNN’s story.
When Wyatt Hunter was a week old, blood clots burst in his brain. Doctors told the Hunters that he would be in severe pain the rest of his life — pain that not even around-the-clock morphine would erase. The doctors said he would be in a completely vegetative state and would have no quality of life. There was no chance he would ever be able to eat, see, hear, walk or talk. The only thing he would be able to do is breathe.
The Hunters didn’t want their son to live that way, so they made a decision no parent should ever have to make: They decided to take him off all forms of life support, including a ventilator, nutrition, and life-prolonging medications.
A few relatives didn’t agree with the Hunters’ decision to end life support and judged them for it.
Wyatt died comfortably two weeks later. His doctors supported the couple’s decision.