Friday, 3 February 2017

Why Do Babies Die?

A question that keeps me busy quite often.
I am working in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU),
and just last week there was a day when I was facing two deaths,
in a matter of minutes: one baby who was born with huge hole
in his diaphragm (the muscle between our chest and our abdomen)
and the other baby had a syndrome that was not compatible with life (Patau).

In such instances, the question tends to intensify a bit in our mind:
Why do babies have to die?

First, if you hope to find a definite answer on this question,
I do not think there exists one. But I share here with you some
results of contemplation that crossed my mind in the past > 20 years.

First, I think there are a few negatives, a few myths regarding death
that are quite thoroughly debunked by the death of babies.

1. "Death is a punishment of God". Why would God punish babies who are just a few days old?
What did they do wrong? I know most of the readers of this blog will have given up long ago the concept of death as a punishment of God but up to today there are still so many people believing in this myth. Death as a punishment, does not make sense to anyone reflecting regularly about life-matters, but death of newborns, often after days of suffering, is refuting completely the above notion. How cruel would it be to punish newborn babies who are by definition perhaps the most innocent beings on earth.
2. "Early death is a result of wrong thinking habits." If you listen to the positive thinking 'gurus', it is likely that you will have heard that all diseases are the result of wrong, negative thinking patterns. While I understand and take it for a truth that there is a great value in positive thinking and positive living, the results of these, are not as absolute as the gurus want us to believe. How wrong would the thinking of a newborn baby have been if he develops a severe and deadly disease. Some may say it is the parents' negative thinking, but that would be extremely unfair to the baby too. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions and positive actions can definitely improve health. I am a believer. But to say that all diseases are curable or preventable by positive thinking, is quite an overstatement, if we think why babies become ill and do die.
Now some other thoughts. Thoughts based on religious beliefs. Mentioning these thoughts here does not mean I agree with them but still they are thoughts about why babies have to die.
A. I heard from one friend who believes that we all have to go through 7 lives, in which suffering can be quite prominent, before we can reach the ultimate heaven (Nirwana). "Babies who die are the ones who had in the previous life lived a in a very good way, since they are given like a life for free, which means one less life to go through before reaching the highest heavens."  From that point of belief, it makes a certain sense, but to make this work for anyone, that anyone has to believe in reincarnation and in the dogma of the 7 lives before Nirwana.
B. Babies dying become angels who will take care from the heavens of their closest family members
C. God was loving so much these souls, he wanted the babies to be with Him.
D. Others believe that the death of babies and other natural disasters are a proof that a good God does not exist.

I think B and C  are really valuable concepts to alleviate the pain of parents and the closest relatives of the child if they do have a strong religious background. But somehow they do not really explain the why of why babies do have to die. Still why would God let them be born in the first place if He really wanted them to be with Him?
And yet...

One thing is quite certain, the world as experienced by us is not perfect. Still I think a non-perfect world does not prove that God does not exists or that God would have some egoistical traits.

While we may not fully understand the reason of so many imperfections in our world and the reason of so much suffering, the thought of a perfect world may sound quite scary as well. I have written a small poem on the non-understanding of reasons why things do happen as they do. (if you have the time, please read the poem and give your honest comments on it below it by clicking on this link ). I truly believe our God does what is done for the best. We have to be careful not to over-interpret and acknowledge that we do not understand the why of certain things.

On imagining how a perfect world would be like, I have written an entry in this blog (the third entry I wrote, back in 2014; if you have the time, please read it by clicking here). I think there is quite a bit of wisdom in just imagining how much more dreadful the exact of opposite of what we tend to dread, could be.

If I think about the extremely difficult question of why babies die, I think I value very much the understanding that all of us are different. We have different life spans, different gifts, different deficiencies, different bodies, hearts and souls. And yet there are so many similarities as well: we have quite often very similar feelings and spiritual experiences.

In summary, I think that by accepting three pieces of wisdom and combining them with each other, can be helpful:
a. We can accept that we are all different.
b. We can accept an imperfect world as a gift (as opposed to a perfect world), to a creative mind, caring heart and loving soul (see reflection 3).
c. We can accept that we do not understand everything that happens in this world, even though our God may have an ultimate reason for it (as proven by so many events that are experienced as negative but later are proven to huge blessings in disguise).
If we accept all the above (a,b and c) in this paragraph, I think the question, why do babies have to die, tends to becomes a little bit less painful and a bit more easy to accept...

What do you think?


  1. One morning you went out from your house, you stepped on an ant, and when you noticed it, it's already too late. The ant did not move anymore, and died.

    now, why did the ant die?

    multiple choice question: (guessing is allowed. but the longest response is not always the correct ultimate answer)

    A. The ant have to go through 7 lives, before it can reach Nirwana. In it's next life, it may reincarnate as a queen ant and live a luxurious life (of an ant).

    B. In the ant's past life, it did something very bad on you, so the negative energy was brought to it's current life (karma) and it is the ant's unavoidable fate to be stepped until die (by you).

    C. The ant did not follow the positive thinking (of an ant), it refused to work, left the ant crowd, drunken(?), got lost and was stepped. If it's not you, eventually there will be other people/animal to step on it.

    D. It's a great ant. It was brave and went out to search for food, but sacrificed. It will become an angel ant (with a luminous ring surrounding its head) and protect other ants.

    E. God was loving so much of its soul, and would like to take the ant with Him.

    F. It's God's will to give us some trials, to train our caring heart and loving soul.

    G. Do not expect life to be fair. Do not ask why.

    H. It's just a pure accident. it occurred by chance. You were careless and did not purposely step on it. the ant had lost the basic elements for it to continue living, therefore it died. the heart was no longer beating, the blood was no longer flowing, the lungs were no longer taking in oxygen, and there was no more waveform in the ant's brain. The ant will foreverly be in a state mimicking deepest state of sleep, in peace. the body will later degrade and return to nature, mixing into soil and earth where grasses might need it to grow. the grass might be eaten by a grasshopper. in one of the coming days, the grasshopper gives birth to a small grasshopper and after sometime it dies and the body might be moved by a group of ants back to the ant nest... and it goes on and on...

    I. None of the above :)

    1. Respond H is definitely false because ants do not have lungs hahaha :)

  2. Hi Hans,
    Soul is here...i read it and i know how much things going to your mind as you deal with babies and kids in your daily work..i know their pain is like your bruises pain.

    As a human, i guess this is what we may deal sometimes, a natural event that happened to us, rarely as individual but more frequent as doctors. It of course may left lot of heartache to people who deal with it as we are human that always tie with heart, emotion and feeling. It just impossible we dont feel hard to face..simply because we are human.

    As someone who trust God, well i have to say that there is a death if we have life, it just matter of period that He borrowed to us. I dont think God is cruel just because of this event as i told u, we human cant hide and deny the feeling of lost and emotion of loving. so it may stop us from be smile because of this hard time. But God knows what He is doing, we should never have a bad thinking to Him because what we know is limited while He owns all including knowledges that we dont have. I know Lord loves kids and innocent ones out there, He will keep them safe from this cruel world. There is appreciation behind everything He created. Either we opposed Him or not He still do His best. I just cant think negatively about Him but good one, Just surrender. Life is a test for these parents, us as human and more doctors as they faced more tragic cases.

    As a Muslim reviewer, i see this for sure that the child is guranteed to live in heaven. There is no doubt about it. At least the parents must know their kid already have a pass to go to heaven. Every child to me born by parents are because they need someone to live perfectly with thoughts and love, to be someone great when they are grown up. Love is started and nurture from baby stage...without this love what is other method to introduce Love to every individual things...ok back to Muslim glasses, and same to Christianity.. of story i picked from Ismael and Abraham, Muslim should look this as a hardest test from God like He knows what you love most, He may test us with any reason. We Muslims look this not as a punishment but a way of Him to see us how much trust we have for Him as a God, if He tests us with this will we be fine, after we all creatures that own by him. He let everything looks everything is connected, that because he is not only a creation that able to create but He is the Creator that creates everything with limitless knowledge and power. Put your heart down upon Him, no matter how worse we are, when we put our Loves back to Him He is most merciful, caring and wonderful...To all parents or anyone out there no matter you look as a human, a non God believer, a God believer or any religion follower... Hurt is half of this life, another half is bliss...if you get one, try to find bliss one. For human like us keep make everyone be happy regardless of nation, race or religion..tolerance is a key.. For doctors, thanks a lot for your help and every time you spend..this hardship is also a test for you, to remind that is why you stand stand for humanity and LOVE


Do you agree, do you disagree, please comment...