March 5, 2024

US hospital loses suit to withdraw life support

An elderly woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease will continue to live on a life-support system after Massachusetts General Hospital failed to persuade a court to overrule her healthcare proxy. Mrs Barbara Howe, 78, has been on a breathing ventilator since 1997 and cannot eat, speak or even indicate if she is suffering. The hospital concedes that she may be fully conscious.

Her eldest daughter Carol is acting as healthcare proxy. She says that her mother had foreseen the progress of her disease and wanted aggressive treatment to stay alive as long as she showed signs of brain function. “She told me she wanted all aggressive treatment done unless she became brain dead or semi-comatose. And I’m talking for her today, feeling, what she would say if she could sit up in the bed, she would say, ‘Continue until God takes me. I don’t want Dr. Billings taking my life; I want God taking my life,” says Carol Howe.

The hospital, on the other hand, contended that Mrs Howe is suffering. “I think in her best interests is to continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is to provide for her care, her comfort and making sure that she can live her life in dignity, but not artificially prolong her life beyond what it should be,” said Dr. Britain Nicholson.

Carol claims that her mother can still communicate with one eye. When she is no longer able to do that, she will ask for life support to be turned off.