Note: I want to thank Valerie Brew-Parrish for sending me the Denver Post article. She wrote an article about "disablicide" for the Joliet, IL paper that included Dylan and a journal later picked it up. She sent me the link after I published the Ruben Navarro piece. Thanks Val.
We do not have to wonder how four-year old, 32-pound Dylan Walborn died. We have the whole picture… the full Monty… complete with a nearly 11,000-word story, two multi-media presentations, message boards, and opinion, all brought to you by the Denver Post.
Dylan had a stroke while in utero causing him to have cerebral palsy (CP). He then defied a medical opinion that he would die in his infancy. The article describes Dylan’s CP as an “overarching term for a condition that left him virtually blind, deaf, immobile, and unable to communicate or perform any voluntary function.” He had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube.
Kevin Simpson a Denver Post reporter wrote, Letting Go. Photojournalist Andy Cross also assisted. It appeared in the October 28, 2006 edition. For his work, Cross received a runner-up journalist award for documenting what it is like to “slowly lose a child.”
The term slowly is accurate; it took 23 days for Dylan to die because of starvation and dehydration; “lose a child” is not at all accurate.
He did not run away at the mall. No one kidnapped him at night. He spent all 23 days in his mother’s apartment, with his parents, and a reporter documenting the entire ordeal. Dylan’s parents, Kerri Bruning and Dave Walborn perceived his bad days outnumbered the good, they spoke with the physicians and ethicists at Denver Children's hospital; then made the deadly decision to withdraw food.
Ministers, grandparents and others came to the apartment throughout those 23 days without food. The article describes visitors coming ‘in waves”. Dylan’s grandma even threw a little party in his honor, the day before they withdrew food.
Questions and Inconsistencies
This story is another example of under the eye of the medical establishment, including ethicists, parents take the life of their child with a disability.
Where was Dylan’s advocate in this process? No one stepped in to represent the child’s interest, or to even question if Dylan had a right to his life. He was not dying. The only thing threatening his life was the starvation forced upon him.
On one hand, the article discusses Dylan’s inability to have any voluntary function. On the other, it says his face indicates he is in pain and that it shows he is devoid of joy. People in Dylan’s life interpreted his life as not worth living, then used the perceived involuntary muscle movement as documentation of their own bias.
Dylan’s seizure activity was on the rise. The article argues that adjusting and/or increasing his medication is a less desirable alternative than dying. The journalist describes Dylan’s seizure activity mentioning he sheds tears when he has a seizure. It does not say studies show that tears while having a seizure indicate he has a certain type of seizure. There are also other reasons why his eyes may tear. But the write wants us to believe it is a justification for killing him.
The article discusses Dylan’s brain damage; but fails to ask if he was brain dead. What did Dylan actually see, understand, or want? He will never get the opportunity to answer that question. Did any one conduct a speech evaluation to see if assistive technology could reveal his potential for communication? Children who have had severe stokes have been able to retrain unaffected parts of their brains to take over functions affected by the stroke with intensive therapy. Did Dylan get that chance; or did the doctor write him off?
Our medical system makes life as hard as possible for parents of children with severe disabilities. However, there are options.
If his parents no longer wanted or were unable to care for Dylan, they could give him up. Does that sound callous? It is certainly far less callous than withdrawing food. Physical, mental or financial exhaustion is no excuse for killing your child.
People will say, "It's wrong to ask a parent to give up a child they love." And I agree, to a point. The point ends when that love leads them to want to kill the child. We hear the argument in adult relationships a lot. A man kills his wife/significant other, because if he cannot have her, no one can. People with disabilities can live without that kind of love.
In August, I saw a news story about Brook Barels. She is six, has CP and wants to walk. The family (who could not afford it on their own) and friends raised enough money to take her to
In April 2007, a Hungarian teenager saw swift gains in his ability to walk, write, focus his eyes, and concentrate after receiving cord-blood stem cells. It is all documented in unedited before and after videos. Does this sound like dreaming? If parents of children with disabilities will not dream for them, who will?
I'm not suggesting that parents of children with disabilities should run off to China for stem cells. I'm saying, if you're considering killing your own child with disabilities (or any other child) because you perceive he should not go on; STOP!! It's murder. There are other extreme options to consider first. His life belongs to him. not you.
In the end, Dylan had no options because no one gave him any.
In a sidebar to the main article, Dr. Stefan Mokrohisky, chair of the ethics committee at Denver's Children's Hospital says, "I guess you could say that even the medical intervention to provide the nutrition is no longer a benefit when compared with the burden of current existence."
"...Compared with the burden of current existence." Whose burden is he talking about? A mother's caregiving burden? Society's financial burden? The burden of putting food down a feeding tube? All of the above?
It has absolutely nothing to do with the humanity and basic civil rights of a tiny four-year-old boy with disabilities.