In "Life Support," a mother must make a difficult decision: whether or not to consent to heart surgery without anesthesia for her critically ill newborn who is on a ventilator. Her instincts and reason contradict each other, and she isn’t sure which to believe. She wants to let the child die naturally in her arms, but this will not be allowed in this particular institution. She feels distant from her husband and from the doctors, and believes that her sudden transformation into the guardian of this child presumes far more knowledge and ability than she possesses.


Although one may be tempted to consider "Life Support" simply in terms of the ethical issues it raises, it is more effective to explore what it means to parent, what it means to doctor, and how human beings navigate these roles. In the classroom, one student rewrote the story from the husband’s point of view, transforming him from a neglectful spouse into a distressed husband and father who deals with the situation as best he can.

Another student wrote from the doctor’s point of view, exploring how this doctor’s personal fears and vulnerabilities affected her ability to relate to the family and to convey information effectively. These students recognized clearly the profoundness of the experience of having a newborn child sustained on a respirator, and were able to articulate how each person’s background and needs influenced the situation.

Primary Source

If I Had My Life to Live Over I Would Pick More Daisies



Place Published

Watsonville, Calif.




Sandra Haldeman Martz

Page Count