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Paralyzed hunter has mental capacity to end life support

Hopefully, residents of Nevada or any other state in the country will never have to face the heart-wrenching decision of removing medical life support for a loved one. Whether or not a Power of Attorney covering health care, financial or personal decisions exists, it is still an emotionally charged situation potentially resulting in guilt and doubt for those with the responsibility.

In an unusual case in another state, a man hurt in a hunting accident was given the opportunity to spare his family that decision. Medical standard practice is that a patient who is capable must be given the power to consent to medical treatment. Courts have also held that patients have a right to refuse life support. Ethicists in the medical field report it is rare, however, for a person to make the choice on the spot for himself.

The 32-year-old was hurt when he fell about 16 feet from a tree. His back was crushed in several places, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. The prognosis for the avid outdoorsman was life-long ventilator support. Unique to this situation was his family's request that his sedation be lessened so he could be informed of the disability and, if able, make his own decision concerning his future.

Reportedly, and without the presence of a living will or health care power of attorney, the man and his wife had discussed that he would reject spending his life in a wheelchair. His family and doctors gave him the choice of reinserting the breathing tube should he begin to struggle, and he chose no with a shake of his head.

This difficult topic can be made real for any family, any time. In this case, the man was able to make the decision himself, but that's not always the case. Advance preparation with signed documents stating your health care decisions and empowering your power of attorney to ensure preferences are followed through could spare your loved ones a small measure of pain.


Source: 
Las Vegas Review-Journal.com, "Doctors grant paralyzed hunter choice to end life support" Jeni O'Malley, Nov. 05, 2013

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