Unplug or not unplug, that is the question. (Coma)

  1. There is a hypothetical case of a coma.
    I want to know if doctors have the right to unplug the person.
    What happens when the chances of waking up are very nil?
    What happens when the chances of waking up are low and it can take several years for the person to wake up?
    I read this article which says medically futile life sustaining treatments are left to the doctor's choice. http://www.fammed.ouhsc.edu/Palliative-Care/documents/Medically Futile Care.ppt

    But, I heard doctors cannot unplug people like that. What's the deal?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,603
    Gold Member

    Once all that remains is the hindbrain, then it's just autonomous functions (heart/lungs). The person is essentially lost. I have heard stories of people "coming back" from brain death (such as Suzanne Chin) but they are very rare and are most likely cases of misdiagnosis rather than genuine recovery.

    http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/meet-brain-death-expert#sthash.KuKl0Jw7.dpuf
     
  4. I say one should leave the choice to immediate relatives. Personally, I would not take a relative off of life-support. Arguments that keeping 'brain dead' people alive are straining the system are fundamentally wrong because tax-funded medicine should not have taken up that responsibility (if they would later claim that the comatose are straining the budget.)
     
  5. do you know if a biopsy is performed during diagnosis?
     
  6. turbo

    turbo 7,366
    Gold Member

    This would be a great time to explore the value of a living will. Would you want extreme efforts made to prolong your life, and under what circumstances? My mother was vegetative (at best) for a week before our family could come to grips with the situation. Not good. Internal strife in the family was horrible, at best.

    My wife and I have living wills drawn up by a lawyer friend of ours, and at least they give some guidance to family as to our wishes should really bad stuff come down.

    Good luck.
     
  7. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I need to get another living will done and hide it from Evo Child, she destroyed the last DNR I had drawn up. She says she will not let then pull the plug on me. :( I want no extraordinary measures taken to try to resuscitate me. I don't want my family paying to keep me on life support.
     
  8. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    That's not really what it says. It says that futile treatments can be refused, but only in two states and only after attempting to transfer the patient to another facility willing to comply with the patient's/power of attorney holder's wishes.
     
  9. Pythagorean

    Pythagorean 4,603
    Gold Member

    Not that I'm aware of:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2772257/

    The above review also includes a lengthy description of the determination process; I haven't read it word-for-word, but it looks like it's mostly nonintrusive tests and a blood sample. Basically, a properly functioning brain should still reproduce standard reflexes that can be tested behaviorally.
     
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

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