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Catholic bishop speaks out after mother loses appeal over life support for 5-year-old girl

March 23, 2021 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Mar 23, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).- A Catholic bishop has lamented an English appeal court ruling that life-sustaining treatment can be withdrawn from a five-year-old girl against her mother’s wishes.

The Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling March 19 concerning Pippa Knight, who is in a vegetative state after suffering brain damage.

Bishop John Sherrington said: “Pippa is living in a seriously disabled way due to her complex and rare medical condition. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has worth and dignity which is independent of their condition. Lack of awareness does not diminish worth.”

“The ruling to allow medics to cease Pippa’s treatment based on her quality of life or worth does not acknowledge or afford her the inherent human dignity with which she was born.”

Sherrington, a Westminster diocese auxiliary bishop and the English and Welsh bishops’ spokesman for life issues, said that he was praying for the girl’s mother, Paula Parfitt, as well as the healthcare professionals caring for her.

“We must uncompromisingly ensure that proper care is given where there is still life, despite serious illness or disability,” he commented.

“We are reminded that such care must include the provision of nutrition and hydration, by whatever means, which is neither treatment nor medicine, unless this itself becomes overly burdensome.”

Pippa was born in 2015. In December 2016, she fell ill and began experiencing seizures. Doctors diagnosed her as suffering from acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a rare form of brain damage marked by multiple bilateral lesions.

After specialists at Evelina London Children’s Hospital said they wished to end life-support treatment, the case went to the High Court, which issued its ruling on Jan. 8.

In a Feb. 4 statement, the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, England, described the ethical reasoning behind the High Court decision as “deeply flawed.”

In a detailed analysis of the judgment, the center’s director David Albert Jones said that the case had similarities with those of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, in which ventilation was withdrawn against their parents’ wishes.

He said that withdrawing life-sustaining treatment could be justified if it no longer serves its purpose or is “excessively burdensome.”

“On the other hand, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment when treatment would have been beneficial and not unduly burdensome is nothing less than abandonment,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, even if withdrawal of treatment is justifiable, it is important that the decision is made for the right reasons. In the case of Pippa Knight, as in the two former cases, the ethical reasoning is deeply flawed.”

In February, Pippa’s mother asked appeal judges to overturn the ruling, arguing that her daughter should be allowed to leave the hospital and be treated at home on a portable ventilator.

Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Baker said in a written ruling: “I am entirely satisfied that the judge was entitled to conclude and declare that it was lawful and in Pippa’s best interests that life-sustaining treatment be withdrawn for the reasons he gave in his judgment.”

The two other judges who heard the appeal — Lady Justice King and Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing — expressed their agreement.

Parfitt, who is supported by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), expressed her dismay at the appeal court’s verdict.

“I am once again devastated as a result of the judgment of the Court of Appeal today, to uphold the decision that it is not in Pippa’s best interests to have a two-week trial of portable ventilation to find out whether she could come home,” she said.

“I find it inexplicable that the court and [hospital] trust will not allow Pippa to trial portable ventilation for two weeks to see if she can return home when the hospital allows Pippa to go outside for long periods on portable ventilation with no issue.”

She continued: “I will be seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. I want Pippa to have every possible chance to come home and be with her family.”

Concluding his March 19 statement, Sherrington said: “The intentional ending of the life of a critically ill patient because of a judgment made of its quality is never in the patient’s best interests. At the heart of humanity must be a call to show love and solidarity with the most vulnerable in society, and to defend the lives of our more fragile brothers and sisters who are unable to do so themselves.”

“My heartfelt prayers are with little Pippa and her mother Paula during this difficult time of suffering, as well as with those caring for Pippa. I hope that everything possible will now be done to accompany and support Pippa and her family following today’s ruling.”


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Beatification cause advances for missionary who saved seven children from drowning

March 22, 2021 CNA Daily News 1

Cordoba, Spain, Mar 22, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Bishop Demetrio Fernández Gonzalez of Córdoba closed on Saturday the diocesan phase of the beatification process for the missionary Brother Pedro Manuel Salado de Alba, who died in Ecuador in 2012 after saving seven children from drowning in the ocean.

The diocesan phase began in October 2018 and ended March 20 with the certification of the original documentation and the two copies that will be sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Salado was a consecrated member of the Home at Nazareth, an institute of consecrated life headquartered in Córdoba. He made his final vows in 1990 and lived in Spain until 1998. He was then assigned to the Quinindé mission in Ecuador, where he directed a home and the Holy Family of Nazareth School.

In a March 20 statement from the Diocese of Córdoba, Bishop Fernández expressed his desire “that this cause be processed quickly.” Now “let’s keep it in our prayers because this cause encourages us to be like Pedro Manuel, to spend our lives for the sake of others.”

Consuelo Csanady, director general of the Home of Nazareth and superior of the women’s branch, recalled that “with Pedro Manuel Salado God wanted to give us an exceptional ambassador.”

Pedro Manuel “tells us today that we must continue giving our lives for others,” she said.

Bishop Eugenio Arellano Fernández, Vicar Apostolic  of Esmeraldas, was also present for the closing and thanked the Córdoba diocese for taking up and advancing the cause of beatification.

Although canon law states that a cause should be opened where the servant of God died, for good reasons the process can be transferred to another diocese, as in this case to Córdoba.

Bishop Arellano said that the life of Salado “is a witness to us”, since he gave his life for the poor children of Esmeraldas “every day.”

At the Mass following the formal closing of the diocesan phase, the Bishop of Córdoba stressed that “he who gives his life for love has won it forever”, and that Salado “has woven the love of Jesus Christ into history.”

Pedro Manuel Salado de Alba was born Jan. 1, 1968 in Chiclana de la Frontera in Cádiz, the third of six children.

Fr. Manuel Jiménez, who heads the Home at Nazareth in Córdoba, said in a video about Salado’s life that “the children loved him very much, they got close to him. Between the children and prayers, he discovered that God was calling him.”

Salado took his final vows in 1990 and lived in the Home at Nazareth in Córdoba until 1998, when he was sent on mission to Ecuador.

“He lived in poverty, which was shown in his ability to adapt to everything. He didn’t have shoes and one day when he was going to play soccer they had to lend him a pair,” Fr. Jiménez recalled.

On Feb. 5, 2012, Salado took a group of children for a walk to Atacames beach.

Around noon the tide rose and seven children were swept away. “Manuel quickly realized that this was a matter of  life and death. He didn’t hesitate to jump into the water and save each one of the children,”  the priest recounted.

 “I’ve got to save my children,” Salado said before charing into the water and managing to pull them out one by one. After bringing back the last two to the beach, he was completely exhausted. One of the sisters from the home said to him, “Manuel, you’ve retrieved them all,” after which he died.

“The children gathered around him and prayed that God would not take him, but Pedro Manuel had already completed his mission on earth,” Fr. Jiménez said.

“Brother Pedro Manuel has been, for all of us who have known him, a gift from God”, he concluded. 

The Home at Nazareth is an institute of consecrated life founded by María del Prado Almagro in 1978. Its mission is to help homeless children and youths in complicated situations.