Kids courageous facing death
September 15th, 2010
02:10 PM ET

Kids courageous facing death

Adults facing serious or terminal illnesses often ask themselves "Why me?" But it's the rare child who has this reaction, says Dr. Sarah Friebert of Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio.

"The older we get, the more entitled we feel ... we sort of expect that we're going to live to be 100 or we’re going to be rich or we’re going to be this or we’re going to be that," says Friebert. "Kids don’t have that sense of entitlement; they sort of live in the present more than we do."

Friebert works with dying and seriously ill children as the director of pediatric palliative care at Akron Children’s. She finds that kids have a particular courage and resilience when it comes to facing the inevitable.

"Most children are very aware of what's going to happen with them," and often understand this faster than the adults in their lives, says Friebert, who attended the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization convention in Atlanta, Georgia, this week.

Her program aims to reduce the suffering of these children and their families through an approach that includes pain management, psychological counseling, spiritual guidance, and education about navigating the health care system. The program visits seriously ill children in their homes, advocates on behalf of them at school and addresses other quality of life issues.

Palliative care does not mean giving up on curative treatments, she said. Instead, it can be a supplement to other therapies to help families cope with difficult situations. Friebert's philosophy is, "Let’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst."

"We usually try to help families allow children to express their needs, have their goals met, and really have a sense that their life has had meaning, and that they have made a contribution," she said.

Until recently, terminally ill children were only eligible for Medicaid to cover hospice care if their parents agreed to not pursue cure-directed therapy. This year's health care legislation permanently changes that, so parents do not have to choose between hospice and conventional medical therapies. Friebert has not yet seen the effects of this new legislation, but it is being enacted by the individual states, and she is working with the state of Ohio on these issues.

But there is still no coverage for children who are not terminally ill, Friebert said. Some kids who come to Friebert's program have serious conditions that may be managed over many years as chronic illnesses. These include cystic fibrosis, complex congenital heart disease, severe neurological impairments, genetic disorders, and chromosome disorders.

More children's hospitals in the United States are looking for ways to develop these programs, Friebert said. She estimates that between 40 and 70 percent of these institutions have some form of pediatric palliative care initiative.

Financial issues discourage many hospitals from following suit, she said. There is also resistance to the idea of children dying - and hospitals don't necessarily want to create a program around the facts that young patients die and miracles don't happen for everyone.

Despite working with dying children on a daily basis, Friebert does not find her job depressing. She went into medicine to alleviate suffering and help people live better, which is the mission of her program.

"I know that I can’t save everybody’s life," she said. "What really matters to me at the end of the day is that these families feel that they’ve done the best job that they can for their child."

soundoff (455 Responses)
  1. mother

    Dr. Friebert,

    May the Creator bless you for caring for his most precious gifts, the children he can't bare to be without for long.

    September 15, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      someone – I think mother's also explained why you're still here.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
    • JasonB

      Seriously, people, and this is coming from an atheist, but why do you feel the need to attempt to shut down other people's belief in God? Just as you don't want them preaching and trying to convert you, don't try to shatter their belief. Have a little respect. You might not agree with what this person said, but overall it was a positive message of good will.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:06 | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      @Jason – Thank you...Finally someone who gets it. We are entitled to believe or not to believe. It certainly doesn't hurt anybody to let someone be who they are.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      @ Jason Well said. That is nice. What a good person you are.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
    • Joe Canadian

      People need to find strength where ever they can and if believing in god gives that to them, then who are you to try and take it away from them? If your child was sick, I can only hope that people weren't cruel enough to take away any source of hope you had.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
    • Will S

      "Just as you don't want them preaching and trying to convert you"...which, if you read the initial post, is exactly what is going on here.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
    • MarcJ

      JasonB: Well said. Fellow atheist here, and I don't see why some people find it necessary to belittle or mock others' beliefs like that either. Lots of people believe things I think are ridiculous, but as long as they don't try to bludgeon me or my children with their faith, they can believe whatever they want.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
    • denise

      so true my heart goes to them

      September 15, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
    • dad

      I just read the article and it confirms my belief that the "why me?" question is for god. The people that ask that wonder why they would have a terminal illness and god will let murderers, rapists, drug dealers, basically bad people live. Parents ask why my child. I quess I am suppose to believe that my child having a terminal illness is just a test.???????

      September 15, 2010 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • alexis knight

      I agree.. I dont really believe in God either but really is that appropriate. I think that what the Dr is doing is wonderful.. and bless those poor children.

      September 15, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • Dux

      Only the good die young, Evil lives for ever.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
    • SSDW

      Mother : Is " bare " a freudian slip ?

      September 15, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
    • DANIEL


      September 15, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      I have to agree with Jason – I have no interest in religion or Christianity BUT come on, do we have to take that away from people too? Fine if you have problems with religion than don't follow it, but let them live by their faith. Especially on an article related to kids dying. Cant we take this fight on another day?

      September 15, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • lmd14

      I can tell you from being an RN who has watched many patients pass on, there is a God. I have felt and seen things occur at the time a patient dies that cannot be explained. It dosnt happen every time. But enough to where I became a believer myself. My sister is a pediatric nurse at Childrens hospital in Akron, Ohio and she agrees. I think hospice is an absolutely wonderful benefit to a terminally ill patient, child or adult. I am thrilled to hear there are advocates out there pushing this issue (not forcing families to choose between life sustaining treatment and receiving help from Hospice). Thank you God for the angels that care for these sick children with such compassion and skill. There is a special place in Heaven for people like you.

      September 16, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  2. Dr. Mama

    Thank you, Dr. Friebert. So little attention is given to children with terminal illness and their families.

    Back in 1987, in the very early days of the hospice movement, my son received incredibly kind and supportive palliative care from the doctors and nurses at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC. We were able to keep him comfortable at home until he died peacefully after a brave 2 year battle.

    Though our family misses Justin every day, we have no regrets about his treatment or care, and that makes all the difference. If only every family going through this tragedy had such wonderful support.

    We need you, and many more like you.


    September 15, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alex

      My son is receiving care from Sloan, and I too am grateful for these wonderful people. I went to your site-are you Dr. Rachel? And if so, do you counsel parents of ill children? Please let me know...

      September 15, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
    • Jojelela

      Dr. Mama, you have a strength I don't know I could ever find after a loss like yours. God bless and keep you and your family, and I'm so grateful that you had loving attendance to you and your family through Hospice. They helped my grandmother and I am eternally grateful for the kindness they showed and the dignity they offered by allowing her to pass in her home, surrounded by her beloved husband, kitties and doggies.

      September 15, 2010 at 21:09 | Report abuse |
    • we all die

      As a matter of fact, every person ever born is destined to die. Life is about how we are treated and how we treat others. Death is only a tragedy when the decedent poorly lived. The author is absolutely correct: most adults expect to live forever and expect their kids to outlive them and life is about TIME rather than SUBSTANCE. We all die. Let's make an effort to be graceful, provide comfort and take the good from where it comes. We like to count what we might have had rather than what we have now. Now wonder we always feel like we lost something.

      September 15, 2010 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
    • D's Mommy

      Dr. Mama–On Sept 12, 2009 my 3 year old son passed away. He had meduloblastoma (caner of the brain-spread to his spinal cord). As with your family, we were supported by an awesome pallative care team. While my baby was only in hospice for 3 days, I am not sure what we would have done without them! We spent so much time with him in the hospital, it was important for us that he be at home when he passed. That is where he was most comfortable and happy. The team was with us EVERY step of the way. To be able to provide pallative care to adults is truly a gift. Providing pallative care to children is a very special gift for not only the child, but also the family!

      September 16, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse |
  3. mike saunders

    May God for ever bless you and may he keep you in his grace bless you and all health workers you are inspired to take care of the ill and dying. All of you were so good to my family in the passing of our parents and brother-inlaw THANK YOU!

    September 15, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. crazypants

    Good article and worthy of a read.

    September 15, 2010 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      Yeah great. So, anyone who complains about their impending death whines too much. There must be something wrong with their mental state to question such a thing. How about the good docs. put them on Prozac to tied them over.

      September 15, 2010 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Jeez whats your problem ,the doctor is just making the observation that kids seem to grapple with death better than many children do. So what are you saying, your generally a whiner in everything else too? Death becomes us all, and you won't be getting a free pass – get used to it.

      September 15, 2010 at 21:37 | Report abuse |

    Thanks for the good work. As a parent of a seven year old with a primary immune disorder, I appreciate a whole-child approach to pain and care rather than a "fighting fires" mentality.

    September 15, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. crazypants

    No one understands sickness. Better not try to damn the creator just because you don't understand your existence. You may have to meet your maker one day....

    September 15, 2010 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ScottyGa

      Not a biggie really. I get mad at God pretty much every day. Figure he is big enough to understand, and is probably looking forward to meeting me. Not to judge and damn but to to explain, console and forgive.

      September 15, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • ScottyGa

      Also looking forward to meeting the creator as well. Mostly to apologize for what a big dum idiot I was in this life, but also to understand what was really behind what happened while I was here.

      September 15, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Just a hunch, but maybe it's harder for adults to accept premature mortality because they've spent their entire lives working and preparing for a future that they will no longer have. I'd imagine the question isn't so much "Why me?" as much as it is "What was the point of my life and why did I work so hard for a career and family life that I only got to experience 1/3-1/2 (whatever number) of?"

    September 15, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ash

      John, I was thinking the exact same thing when I was reading this article. It's not 'why me' it's just that we become more aware of what we have to lose and how precious it is as we age. Well said.

      September 15, 2010 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Aye, I think adults have a greater, richer awareness of life and loss from experience. And like you said, I think it's the loss of "what could have been" (perhaps more acutely realized by adults) that is the biggest impact.

      September 15, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
    • we all die

      We are supposed to plan for the future and live for today because people die at all ages. If your life today is miserable because you're desperately trying to build up your 401-K in time, you've missed it. Get a better job you either like, has a better plan or accept you won't be living on $100K/y for 30 years after retirement. Life is now. Now is certain, future is not. Which deserves more emphasis? Buy life insurance to be responsible towards your dependants but otherwise, enjoy every day and realize it may be your last. I almost died and I see the reality of mortality. It's ok. It's not if, it's just when and any time is ok with me.

      September 15, 2010 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      We strive so hard because with every generation all knowledge has to be passed along to the next, and there is so little time for them to absorb and remake our knowledge. But modern life gives us almost no time with our children to do that, and it leaves us scrambling and wondering why Culture and family sharing makes everything worthwhile. We do not feel "entitled," but ripped off, as we work work work. If people wonder why there is so much ignorance, it is because families cannot talk together.

      My parents are in hospice now, and my aunt and uncle were, hospice is wonderful. My only difficulty though is that we are not afraid enough of death; why, when antibiotics don't work, are we supposed to wait longer to take a child to the doctor when they have a fever? (Or why is a child sent home from the hospital that had a 105 degree fever the same night? This happened to my grandson a year ago.) We should care about relieving pain (not just in terminal cases), but we should also care about curing people who can be cured of little and great illnesses. Sure, we cure many, but why are there so many statistics of heat death and other death that is avoidable in children? Why do we allow sports to bash kids' heads? What are we doing to make a wonderful life, not just a beautiful death?

      September 16, 2010 at 01:31 | Report abuse |
  8. Help

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young babies is fighting for his life…… thanks

    September 15, 2010 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jerry

    @someone – You must really be a depressing person. Has it ever occurred to you that this isn't a perfect world and we are not robots. If God fixed everyones lives and stopped all suffering how would we ever have free will or choice or even know what a wonderful day was since everyday would be wonderful. We could all be robots that never make bad decisions and harm other people. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason children die is because we pollute our environment so much. We make personal choices to drive instead of walk or ride bicycles. We use tons of plastic because its cheaper or put fertilzer on our lawns because we want them to look pretty. So mabye we are to blame for most of the suffering because of our personal choices instead of God who let's us make our own decisions (right or wrong).

    September 15, 2010 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Jerry, Neither one of us has a nuclear detonation device in our home so that would constitute a lack of free will...feel like a robot yet? One can have free will and yet have reasonable limitations placed on it. I would suggest God should have done that too..in fact it makes logical sense not to let anyone die let's say under the age of 70 since this existence, from a certain religious perspective, is a morality test that this poor child god never gave a chance to pass. Doesn't make much sense when you think about it does it? Also, why not blame god for the potential of Cancer and Ebola? I mean he could have created a world without that potential couldn't he? Also, if you had not noticed...many children died before we polluted the environment...even more so. You know, famine due to "acts of god" and other sources. God and his mysteries...hmmm. Please continue to rationalize without reflection.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse |
    • Parlemort

      Good points, Steve, and I'll take it one step further. If the supposed god gave us free will then he must also have free will, but he is all-powerful. So this god is capable of ignoring the cries of babies in pain and, instead of reaching in to save them, he allows them to die painfully. I would rather spend an eternity in a hell than even one moment with a god who can ignore the cries of a baby. Good day.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • we all die

      Sustainability means if you want to make new people (a.k.a. babies), existing people have to die so the human population doesn't consume the Earth. You might have noticed all other life forms are stil subject to constant evolutionary and predatory pressures except most of us. With food, water, shelter and antibiotics, even the most unfit of us can breed prolifically. God doesn't cause suffering, we do and we need to exercise self-restraint by limiting our births and accepting death when it is time. Elimination of suffering can be through prevention and/or palliative treatment. Allowing suffering for any reason should be eliminated. Those who are aware of and tolerate suffering in others are evil.

      September 15, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  10. Brett

    To "someone": You've got it backwards. There is actually no reason to believe God does not exist. Unfortunately, you are one of the entitled ones that believe you deserve this or that. Whether we live to be 100 or 10, we are here but for a blink. Count your blessings because this life is short. The Bible says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as these (children). There is so much irony and arrogance in your attitude. The irony in this is that the children have the exact attitude and spirit of love and understanding that is lost on adults through life. They are still pure and haven't lost their abilitiy to believe the unbelievable simply out of faith that there is something more.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rbnlegend

      By that logic, there is also no reason to believe that unicorns and faries do not exist. Children believe in those just as much as, and more, than the god described in the bible.

      Faith is not something you can take away, and it's not something that you can inflict on someone else. You can tell me about your faith, but that won't cause me to share it. You can point at your bible and use rhetoric all day long, and in the end, I still don't feel your faith. What would it take? I don't know. I can't imagine god becoming flesh, doing miracles and saying "dude, read the bible, that's me" in my presence. I have felt the touch of the divine, but it was never connected to the bible, or a name for god, or the trinity, or any of that.

      September 16, 2010 at 06:50 | Report abuse |
  11. D'Bourgois

    Its religion that gives (false) entitlement of life after death. If you want to see how frivolous your own religion is, see how you feel about other religion.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CAROL B

      if thats the case than they wouldn't say why me , their god wants them home .

      September 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    Independent of the existence of God there exists a principle of compassion. It doesnt matter if you are buddhist, christian, or athiest. One binding principle that deters suffering and creates value for the existence for all human beings is compassion.

    If you want to take one lesson away with you from this discussion forum and this life it should be about the necessity for mutual understanding towards your fellow man and a sense of compassion for all life.

    People like "someone" may have it figured out after all...but living a life of bitterness, angst, and anger towards those who do have a belief in God leaves you with a hollow existence that ultimately is full of despair.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Diane

    I had a baby girl who died shortly after birth. I had had an amnio beforehand so I knew she was likely to die quite young. We did everything we could be prepare for a "good death". She had a fatal genetic abnormality that could not be cured so we made sure that she was not hooked up to needless tubes and needles but rather just left in our care to receive love and comfort during her short time here. She died painlessly in my arms looking into my face. We recently had a cancer scare with my mother and realized that the human cost in pain and discomfort of treating an 88 year old woman for stage 4 cancer would be far greater than just keeping her comfortable until it was her time. She turned out to be benign but this kind of planning is important for all of us to make regarding our loved ones, and our own, eventual demise.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sarah

      I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your daughter had a great mother for the time she was here.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse |
    • angie

      oh Diane, your post made me cry. i'm so sorry for your loss. what a brave and compassionate mom to give your baby life, even though i'm sure it would have been easier on you to terminate.

      September 16, 2010 at 00:31 | Report abuse |
  14. diesel2u

    The older we get, the more entitled we feel ... we sort of expect that we're going to live to be 100 or we’re going to be rich or we’re going to be this or we’re going to be that," says Friebert. "Kids don’t have that sense of entitlement; they sort of live in the present more than we do."...................This is so true, Us adults expect everything

    September 15, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Edmund

    technically.. every human is born an atheist. children believe in all we teach them to believe. maybe we can learn some things from them?

    September 15, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Steve

    The people who do this work like Dr. Sarah Friebert are angels. Thank You!


    September 15, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Hugh Jarce

    I see all the Jesus freaks are jumping on this. In spite of believing that everything is "God's Will", it never stops them seeing a doctor.

    I wish we could rid ourselves of all this superstition and religious insanity, it's a curse.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. NYGirl

    For those who do not believe in God – he still loves you and even though you do not believe or respect him – he will still take care of you. This program that Dr Friebert has is wonderful in helping family members, as well as the ill child, to deal with death and grieving. How anyone can make the comments that some of you have made makes me wonder what has made you the person you are. If you had God in your heart – you wouldn't make the comments you have made.

    September 15, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NY Boy

      I want to believe that your "compassion" for "non-believers" is heart felt, but the tone feels rather patronizing.
      The single MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT SPIRITUALITY (we're not talking the institution of religion, rather,
      spirituality which should be the intent ) is that it is profoundly private, personal and meaningful in the most unexpected
      ways – EVEN IF someone says they "don't believe in god" there is "connection" to the world and an unspoken belief
      system. That's what so many people, including yourself don't understand. You are so wrapped up in the "institution and "face of god" that I feel you forget what it means to be a compassionate, moral human being. You don't need to stand and
      pronounce faith to be equally respectful of life, love and humanity. I think if people could open their minds to this very real
      fact much of the religious hatred we see and hear preached (after all, it is about LOVE not HATE) would cease to exist.

      September 15, 2010 at 18:15 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      How do you know God loves any particular individual. Do you work as his earthly conduit? My guess is you got that opinion from a religous text of some sort. Did you read it in it's entirety and filter out the genocide and other acts of condoned violence? You do realize that the major religions have hellfire as its destination for non-believers right? Is that love? Tolerance? Should ones personal opinions or philosophy determine whether one fate if they are non-violent. Also, the all roads lead to god political correctness you see nowadays is anathema to the actual religous texts. Some religions like the Jains and other eastern religious faiths are superior in many ways to the western faiths..perhaps take a broader look.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse |
  19. lgf

    "Until recently, terminally ill children were only eligible for Medicaid to cover hospice care if their parents agreed to not pursue cure-directed therapy. This year's health care legislation permanently changes that, so parents do not have to choose between hospice and conventional medical therapies." Could this be construed as shutting down "death panels"

    September 15, 2010 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • we all die

      IgF, that was an extremely ignorant comment. There never were or were proposed "death panels". The policy now overturned did make parents choose between financial options but parents were the ones choosing and I suspect many chose to pursue curative treatment no matter how dismal the clinical picture. That isn't a bad financial choice, it would be bad because the kids get no quality of life before it violently ends in the midst of a painful treatment. Sometimes the treatment is far worse than the hope of efficacy. The new policy allows kids to get palliative treatment in addition to curatiive, if desired.

      Besides, in the Medicare amendment Palin skillfully skewered with effectively trolling "death panels", it would benefit seniors and society immensely to counsel [all people] about end-of-life and being prepared (it can come at ANY time, like age 21 on your birthday after your first binge). Not being prepared means medical professionals have to do everything to save you (bet on 19 or 21 in blackjack) and that leaves you with painful unnecessary treatment and it costs taxpayers $B. Everyone over 18 should have a will and everyone should have thought about a living will, DNR or power of atty. Getting into an accident or illness and not being prepared is inexcusable. What does that mean? Someone ELSE makes decisions for you: that sounds like a death panel. Go ahead, don't specify your wishes...I'll decide for you or someone else.

      September 15, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
  20. Bill

    One of my teen son's buddies has terminal cancer. Those around him are devastated but he is taking it, well, the only words I can think of are "quite well". 🙁

    September 15, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. kat swansey

    These types of stories always tear me up. I am a survivor and my three year old cousin died of cancer. I am volunteering with the Make A Wish Foundation in November and absolutely CANNOT wait. Much respect and best wishes to the children and the people working with them to make life as easy as possible until they can no longer be with us.

    September 15, 2010 at 18:26 | Report abuse | Reply


    September 15, 2010 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Juni

      No, it doesn't work that way. Different people have different beliefs. I'm glad your beliefs give you strength. Don't look down on those who believe otherwise.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  23. bettie

    "Until recently, terminally ill children were only eligible for Medicaid to cover hospice care if their parents agreed to not pursue cure-directed therapy. This year's health care legislation permanently changes that, so parents do not have to choose between hospice and conventional medical therapies. "

    One of the many Excellent benefits of the recently-enacted health care reform legislation. I wish these children and their families well.

    September 15, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. steve

    $700 billion fro the auto industry, $700 billion to Wallstreet, two wars with billions going to these countries to help rebuild. We should never have a child not receiving the best possible care available, and cost should never be a factor. Bless them all.

    September 15, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JNT

      while i agree... if we didnt spend the time and money on national defense and to fight terrior, we may not be America or free and able to send our sick children to the doctor and hospital to recieve treatment ... there are two sides to everything.

      September 16, 2010 at 08:27 | Report abuse |
  25. Brent Slensker

    As a healthy, gym-using, middle-aged Atheist, I think it's rather obvious that the kicking and screaming of doomed/dying adult "believers" is due to religious inculcation. Innocent children have no need of it until poisoned by their authority figures.

    September 15, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • almxx

      Lucky for you that you avoided those "authority figures", except for big business, society in general, people whose opinion you respect. What is the gym time for? Since you are self creating and in control, you can determine everything about yourself, and your destiny. All you have to do, is think positively.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      I am an atheist too and I would be really sad if I knew I was dying. I think it is natural to cling to life since it is all we know....

      September 15, 2010 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
  26. Tony

    Thank you Dr. Friebert. You are an infinitely stronger and selfless person than I. You have a job I couldn't bare to come to everyday. It would be far too painful. I'd come home in tears every night. It takes a lot of strength and an overriding sense of compassion to come in every day and work with children who you know may not be on this earth the next day. The world needs more people like you.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ryan

    another atheist here. lets be more kind and thoughtful with are discourse. bet alot of the atheist posting these incendiary comments are under 20.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tony

      Well said Ryan, I'm an agnostic who seconds that. Just because you don't believe doesn't mean that others aren't entitled to. And to look past the kindness of someone's words simply to demean their beliefs makes YOU not them a lesser person.

      September 15, 2010 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
  28. almxx

    I guess those intellectuals who don't believe in a "GOD" believe that they were the ones who instilled instructions in everything that is on earth. Instructions that never fail to be followed in all situations. Maybe it's like finding a dead body, not being able to determine who made it dead, and so concluding it isn't dead.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • no filters

      I think agnostics and athiests tend to observe the world for what it is rather than for what they were told to believe about it. Finding a corpse would be taken as a corpse despite not knowing a cause of death. As I recall, Christianity teaches that there is a reason for everything and it is God. A corpse might then be assigned "God's will" by believers whereas someone else might realize the autopsy will reveal how and perhaps why might be derived from that. I'd prefer the real why to "God made it so". I like to experience the world unfiltered and prefer accurate science to comforting rote religion. We get to the bottom of things.

      September 15, 2010 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
  29. The_Dude

    Does being an atheist mean not believing in anything or is it only god & religon they dont believe in?

    September 15, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • intelligence please

      Dude: put the bong DOWN, reach under the sofa and retrieve the cheetos. Do not drive, blog or use the telephone for the next 12 hours. Hopefully the damage isn't permanent and don't do it anymore. In the context of the weed, your comment is pitiable. In the absence of it, you are a moron.

      September 15, 2010 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
    • from guam

      @intelligenceplease. What's wrong with The_Dude asking that question? Maybe he really doesn't know, and he's looking for an answer. Intelligence, please!

      September 16, 2010 at 00:57 | Report abuse |
  30. Stephanie

    I've always thought that the question "Why me" is ridiculous. As if there's a fixed amount of strife that must be distributed. So maybe kids are smarter than adults.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bill

    They don't believe in god – but that's their choice, and that's ok too. If you don't believe in god religion you would be religious.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Bill

    They don't believe in god – but that's their choice, and that's ok too. If you don't believe in god you would not be religious.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. whodatwhoder

    I almost cried without even reading the article, I don't want anyone to die so young. Life is so precious and most of us take it for granted till its too late. I had a brother that passed away at 55, he just died of a heart attack in his sleep. This is a tough subject to talk about because everyones got an opinnion on what happens to us after death. I believe in an afterlife filled with possibilities and adventures, its just another extension of our being. Anyway, people slow down and enjoy life!

    September 15, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bill

    But you can also believe in god and not be religious.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Bill

    whodatwhoder – sorry for your loss. If we realize that we are spritual beings having a human expierence, then we can find our way to knowing there is a god and an eternal life.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. John Galt

    No, they don't "get it" – if they really truly appreciated the sad brevity to their lives and the emotional scars it will leave on their families when they are gone, they would not be so accepting of their situation. This is a story "made up" for copy. With a simple sentence like "Most children are very aware of what's going to happen with them" an entire premise is constructed which upon reflection, is simply not true. And if you take away that premise, the rest of the story is baseless – that is the entire crutch upon which it rests.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Petes

      Well said.

      September 16, 2010 at 00:09 | Report abuse |
    • feel for my own predicament

      John, kids know a lot more than idiot adults think. Medical staff also explain things to them. You're saying that the kid is dying and you think the kid should be in anguish about your anticipated grief. HOW SELFISH you are! These feelings are YOUR hangup and just because you feel that way doesn't mean the kid should too. Get a grip. The kids experience what they feel, not what they think their parents want them to feel. That's F-ed up. This article is right on target.

      September 16, 2010 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
  37. Bill

    Maybe its better that they don't know it, and let them go in peace

    September 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. CAROL B

    my brother died of cancer 47 years ago he was 3 my folks asked why him, and my mother stopped going to church . she was so mad at god,

    September 15, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. PT

    ....for all you "Christians" saying that tragedies like this is 'God's Will' or 'Acts of God'- you should be ashamed at yourself! It shows that you really do not know what the Bible really teaches – and neither do your religious leaders!

    Maybe thats why so many on this forum are atheist. They might just be fed up with the lies and hypocrisy that religions today are so FULL of! I can't say that I blame them for believing this way.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      I'm not fully sure what you mean, but as a Christian I do know that there is certain inevitability to each moment, and I accept it. Some may describe that as god’s will, and I accept that depiction too.

      September 15, 2010 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
    • Coolshower

      What makes you so convinced that all these people are atheist. Anyway, the point of this article is simply to marvel at these children who endure so much suffering and pain while smiling. For whatever reason, immaturity or great intuition, these children are inspiring.

      September 16, 2010 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
    • PT

      @Bill, thats just it! The certain "tragic" inevitabilities to each moment is NOT God's Will.
      Eccl 9:11 – time and unforeseen occurrence (being in the wrong place, wrong time) – not God's doing.
      1John 5:19 – this shows who is the real source of problems in the world
      Job 34:10-12 – God is never the source of bad things in this world (Children do not die because God needs another angel)
      Rev 21:3,4 – What God's Will for the near future is.

      @ Coolshower
      I never said that everyone here was an atheist. If you read my post it said that many are. And if you read their posts', you would see that they are the ones who say they are – not me. And yes, I also described this situation as tragedies from the original article, agreeing with you. However, I am only commenting people's responses in the forum.

      September 17, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
  40. GreekFreek

    Those who haven't experienced God haven't experienced true loss. Good bless these children and their eternally suffering family.

    September 15, 2010 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      You can rest on knowing the children are in a restful place, and that their parent's suffering will only last until they are here on earth, or their suffering will last less if they can heal with their faith.

      September 15, 2010 at 20:08 | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Here's my true loss. When people I love die, I don't have the satisfaction that they continue to remain in some other way besides memory. Religion helps relieve grief. Atheists have to live with it until they die.

      September 15, 2010 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
  41. sammysmom

    i'm not going 2 mention what my beliefs are or are not. This dr is helping people n that's all that matters, so plz everyone quit fighting. If u don't have anything nice 2 say, don't say anything at all. Why bring people down? I have had a rough year full of deaths of loved ones of different ages. My 16yr old son sammy died dec.22,09 after a life of cerebral palsy, blind, deaf, totally care dependent. I would of loved 2 have the help of this caring dr over the years and especially toward the end. I think it great that she's doing this. I didn't have hospice either and wish i could have! My best friend since childhood who was supporting me n the loss of my son n didn't know how i was doing it......found out how-unfortunately....her 16yr old girl passed away april 17, 10-4 mos after my boy. She didn't have any disabilities, was an average girl. So now we're here 4 each other 4 the same thing. There has been alot more deaths around me and n our small town and the ages r from teens-80s, but i'm only mentioning 3 of em closest 2 me, we've had like 20 from all different causes. Then aug. 15, 10 my gpa n law passed away from a stroke nd heart attack. Gma is n nursing home, and gpa had hospice helping him with gma and then same hospice nurse visiting him @ home and when he spent his last week n hospital. Had i known more about hospice @ the time of my son-i would of called and worked with them! Learned how great n comforting this hospice nurse was the week we all shared with gpa n hospital. Wish i knew sooner. They don't just take a shift with patients, they take the patient n2 their care n get 2 know them personally n care on all levels. Helped make leaving here more peaceful nstead of prolonging n saving lives that hospital nurses are trained 4, yet there was no hope left 4 my son-he could of went more peaceful n quicker with hospice i now have learned. Just hated the suffering part! So on behalf of all the families that have these special children n such n their lives, i thank u doctor 4 giving of urself 2 help other

    September 15, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. CAROL B

    though i have my belives, faith does help heal some people maybe not cancer but peace of mind , hope ,thats what reilgion is good for if someone truly believes faith, hope, peace of mind i hope to think my loved ones that are gone are waiting for me when i go, without faith for some there no hope and with that why be good to anyone

    September 15, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Rebecca

    My son, Garrett, died from brain cancer after a 9 yr battle with two different brain tumors. He NEVER once said "why me". He was the bravest human being I've ever known. I have stage 3 colon cancer now and I seem to always be wondering and asking "why me?". Children are simply amazing!!!

    September 15, 2010 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Bub

    Remember, hospice for more than just terminal disease. When I had cancer my oldest children were 3 and 7. Our local hospice has a program where people dress up like giant teddy bears and talk to the kids so they know what to expect. They explained a lot in advance so the kids were cool with it. They even went to their school and talked to their classes so the other kids kew what was going on. That was almost 4 years ago. I am cancer free and doing fine and the kids still talk about the bears from time to time.

    September 15, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. bob

    You are a beutiful person for making the best out of an extremly difficult situation for these children.

    September 15, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jesus Christ

    Religion: no thanks, and stop shoving it down my throat.

    September 15, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Woody

    It is sad to see a child die. But it is also sad to see children around the world starving to death. While religions are building multi million dollar mega churches as if there is no end in sight for the money they can spend . Tonight I saw a preacher begging for money in a six hundred dollar silk shirt on tv while a chid starved to death tonight.

    September 15, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. michael

    God or no god, I agree wholeheartedly that we should help those in need and realize that life isn't only about ourselves and we need to accept the fact that we are here and gone in a blink of an eye. Live life to the max and do what you can to make a difference in at least someone other than just yourself.

    September 15, 2010 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Chris

    Whatever it is, we need to respect the hopes and dreams of children everywhere that life goes on (which I believe it does) and that kids should be able to be kids and believe in the afterlife rather than somebody trying to influence them that there is nothing, which is a sad existence for those that believe that. Kids are resilient. Kids believe in hope. Kids bellieve in cures. Kids believe, because they can.....period. And that, is what keeps me going as an adult, and what should streghen the human race as a whole, because I think we forget what we've been to what we have all become....To quote Todd Snider, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, God I wish I could remember what I said"...

    September 15, 2010 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Colleen

    God needs to be taken out of the discussion. None of us truly know if there is a God or not. How do I know this? Because we are all still alive. None of us have seen the other side. If believing that there is a God makes people feel better, great, fabulous. If you believe that there is nothingness after we die, that's great and fabulous too but none of us truly know. We won't know the answers until we are dead.

    I agree that most children are very aware of what is happening to them. The day of my 10 yr. old brother's death he awoke and said, "Today is my last day. An angel came to me last night and told me that it was my last day." Now he used the word angel perhaps because that was the only way he knew to describe the being that visited him in the middle of the night. For me I am given comfort because I now believe there is something after this life. I don't believe in any traditional religions or any traditional religious figures, but I do believe there is something after this. Again, I won't know for sure until I'm dead.

    Hospice helped my brother greatly the day of his death. They helped to make him as comfortable as possible and I'm grateful to them for that. My 10 yr. old brother took his last breaths on my parents bed with my mother holding him in her arms.

    It reminds me every day how short life is. Life is not a dress rehearsal people, we only get one chance. Let's be kind to one another in any and every way that we can.

    May you all be blessed in this life.

    September 15, 2010 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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