Earlier this month, a 32-year-old husband and father fell 16 feet from a tree while hunting, broke his neck and was left paralyzed from the neck down—making him quadriplegic—and reliant on a ventilator to breathe. According to the Indy Star, while he was still in the intensive care unit, in the early phases of his injury, his family told his health care providers that they didn’t think that he would want to live as a quadriplegic. According to the story, the doctors discontinued his sedation, and he awoke enough to verify that he did not wish to live as a quadriplegic. The doctors discontinued life sustaining measures and he died about five hours later, surrounded by his family and friends.
At first glance, you may agree with the decision: An individual ought to have total autonomy over his body and future. Who better to make the decision than the patient himself? According to the article, his wife said, “The last thing he wanted was to be in a wheelchair” and “His quality of life would’ve been very poor.” It is not for me to question their decision—I was not there, I was not their physician, and I don’t know what process the healthcare providers followed. But this story brings a number of disturbing issues to light.
In some new systems where doctors are reviewed by patients, physicians unwilling to supply addicts with pain pills receive poor patient-satisfaction feedback. That is judged as poor performance by hospital administrators.