March 5, 2024

Blink once to live, twice to die

Making the choice between life and death


Here is a startling case from the UK. A severely
brain-damaged 43-year-old father of two, Richard Rudd, became a quadriplegic, unable
to move or communicate after a motorcycle accident last October. He had left no
advance directives, but his family clearly recalled remarks about a friend who
had become a paraplegic. “If ever this happens to me, I don’t wanna go on.
I don’t wanna be like him,” he told them.

So after his situation stabilised, his
family felt that doctors should withdraw his life support system.

However, Mr Rudd’s doctor noticed that he
could move his eyes. This meant that even though he was “locked in”, it was
possible to communicate with him. After six months, the doctor asked him if he
wanted to continue living. The answer was an unequivocal Yes. “I asked him
again and on three occasions he made it clear, just with yes/no answers, that
this was a consistent response,” said Professor David Menon of the Neuro
Critical Care Unit (NCCU) in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge..

Since them Mr Rudd has made steady
improvement. He can smile and his long-term memory is intact.  

His father, also named Richard Rudd, told
the BBC: “We all sit round and talk in the pub or at work and say ‘if this
happened to me, turn the machine off’. It’s all hypothetical and you don’t know
until it happens to yourself. As a family and friends, if that person can’t
decide for themselves, sometimes you feel that you can decide for them…

“But now Richard’s in the situation
where that’s actually happened. It’s real life – it’s not pretend. He is in
that situation. The will to live takes over… For my part, I’m glad he’s alive
and didn’t make a living will.” ~ BBC, July 13

Michael Cook
end of life