Euthanasia and its alternative

Two contrasting news stories yesterday grabbed my attention on the subject of comas and euthanasia.

From the BBC:

A High Court judge has ruled a 14-year-old girl taken to hospital after being found hanging has died.

Doctors from Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust told the court tests three days ago showed the teenager to be "brain stem dead".

But her parents said she had signs of life and wanted her to stay on a ventilator in hope of a miracle.

On Friday Mr Justice Francis concluded the "criteria for death" had been met for the girl who can not be named.

He said doctors could lawfully stop providing "ventilatory support" and "all other treatment".

The judge called her dead, even though she was still breathing with mechanical support.  The physicians called her "brain stem dead," which at least leaves room for other parts of the body being alive.  I am not sure what, if any, difference there is between this description and the expression "vegetative state" that we read about in this country.  But whatever term is used, we're supposed to believe the doctors and the judge because they're "experts."

On the other hand, maybe medical science and judicial wisdom are not all they are held up to be.  From Hannah Frishberg of The New York Post:

"Words cannot begin to describe the pain we felt in that moment," says Emma Labuschagne, 27, of the March morning she realized her baby boy had suffered heart failure overnight.

"We watched our baby breathless, gasping for air while his heart stopped and paramedics worked to save his life," the mom of three from Bristol, England, tells SWNS.

Michael was rushed to the hospital where doctors held out little hope for his recovery: Less than 6 percent of patients survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association. He was put into an induced coma, and his parents were told they should expect the worst.

Yet, five days later, Michael defied the odds. He pulled through, waking up and gasping for air — and smiling at his dad, Stuart, 28.

I realize Baby Michael was not diagnosed as "brain stem dead" or "vegetative state" or any other such designation.  But his case does show that we don't really know about the body's and brain's miraculous capabilities of recovery.

If Baby Michael had remained in Britain, he would not have recovered:

A scan revealed that Michael hadn't suffered any brain damage — but doctors did discover he had a heart tumor, requiring expensive surgery.

Michael's palm-sized cardiac fibroma was latched onto his septum inside the left chamber of his heart. These growths account for 14 percent of cardiac tumors in children, according to Boston Children's Hospital.

Fibromas can obstruct blood flow and are commonly associated with arrhythmia and ventricular tachycardia — when the heart beats more rapidly than normal.

However, England's universal healthcare system won't pay for the cardiac fibroma to be removed from little Michael's tiny, now 10-month-old heart. Emma, a shop worker, and Stuart, a plumber, launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise the $153,000 needed to take their son to Boston for a potentially life-saving surgery.

Tell me again about how wonderful socialized medicine is.

Photo credit: Captain Roger Fenton (cropped).

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