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An 18-year old girl, traveling home late at night is hit head on by a Ford pickup truck. She suffers severe head injuries and is in a coma. Her family is devistated, but hopes for the best. After a few weeks she opens her eyes but is totaly unresponsive. She is in what the medical profession calls a vegitative state. In a vegetative state, a person has very little action, thought, or feeling as in vegetables. After one month it is called a "persistant vegetative state". It is at this point that families look into the discontinuation of life support. Half of those in persistant vegetative states will recover in one year, however families still seem to want to kill their own flesh and blood without listening to these vital recovery statistics. A living will is one of the ways people try to convince doctors to discontinue life support. In the official living will form, the declarant signs that they are "of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding" 4 times. They are also required to have two witnesses sign the paper saying that they see the declarant as being of "sound mind". The declarant also must promise that they are "emotionally and mentaly competent to make this declaration".
The reason most respected hospitals, including Penn State Geisenger, do not accept living will is because of all of the promises of "sound mindedness". A competent adult cannot fathom, let alone declare, how they would feel if they were in a situation where they cannot communicate their own decision to live or die.
Imagine how this young girl must feel. She is consious. What could she be thinking? She can't communicate to her family to tell them not to discontinue life support. What does she do? Luckily the Constitution gives every american citizen the right to life. The girl did not have a living will, and the testimony of a family member to the effect of "They said they wouldn't want to live this way" doesn't hold up in court because of a decision made by the Missisipi Supreme Court saying that no one can determine how the adult feels in the situation and since they were of sound mind when they told them, it fails as does the living will.
After the girl has been in the vegetative state for a year it is called by the medical profession, a "permanent vegetative state". Still, 11% of the people in permanent vegetative states recover. After 15 months, the girl recovered and regained consiousness. In time she learned to answer multiple choice questions and do simple math problems using eye blinks. At one point she wrote "mom, I love you". This shows emotion, a characteristic of sophistocated thinging. After five years she could mouth words and short phrases. Five years and two months after the injury she was sent home. When she got home, her first words were "Thanks mom for not killing me. I was so scared you would pull it."
The state has the right to deny an individuals right to die. It is seen every day in suicide cases.
- Suicide is Illegal in the United States of America
- If a person threatens to comit suicide, he or she can be held in a psyciatric facility for up to 72 hours.
- If a person attempts to comit suicide, they can be held in a psyciatric facility indefinately until they are deemed "to pose no threat to themselves".
Most states do not accept living wills. This really doesen't matter though. In the legal "Living Will Form" section three (3) states that: "If at any time I should have a terminal condition and my attending physicain has determined that there could be no recovery from such condition and my death is imminent, ...I direct that I be allowed to die naturally." The only case where a physician could determine that there could be NO recovery and death would be IMMINENT would be brain death. Brain death is the cessation and irreversibility of all brain function, including the brain stem. Nowadays, modern ressucitative devices and techniques can maintatin the function of the heart, lungs, and visceral organs for a period of time after the life-maintaining centers of the brain stem tissue have stoped functioning. Legaly, the only way
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Medical ethics, Neurotrauma, Anatomical pathology, Consciousness, Euthanasia, Brain death, Coma, Persistent vegetative state, Near-death experience, Electroencephalography, Head injury, Cerebral hypoxia
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