In Unusual End-of-life Case: Paralyzed Deer Hunter Asked to Make the Call

Tim Bowers got to decide for himself whether he wanted to live or die. When the avid outdoorsman was badly hurt Saturday in a hunting accident, doctors said he would be paralyzed and could be on a ventilator for life. His family had a unique request: Could he be brought out of sedation to hear his prognosis and decide what he wanted to do? Doctors said yes, and Bowers chose to take no extra measures to stay alive. He died Sunday, hours after his breathing tube was removed. "We just asked him, 'Do you want this?' And he shook his head emphatically no," his sister, Jenny Shultz, said of her brother, who was often found hunting, camping, or helping his father on his northeastern Indiana farm. The 32-year-old was deer hunting when he fell 16 feet from a tree and suffered a severe spinal injury that paralyzed him from the shoulders down. Doctors thought he might never breathe on his own again. Courts have long upheld the rights of patients to refuse life support. But Bowers' case was unusual because it's often family members or surrogates, not the patient, who make end-of-life decisions. Medical ethicists say it's rare for someone to decide on the spot to be removed from life support, especially so soon after an injury. But standard medical practice is to grant more autonomy to patients. Shultz said her brother — the youngest of four siblings — wanted to talk but couldn't because the ventilator tube was still in place. If the tube were removed, she told him, doctors were not sure how long he would live. But when she asked if he wanted the tube reinserted if he struggled, Bowers shook his head no.


Source/more: San Jose Mercury News

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