Healthcare Professionals, Roles and Virtue
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 1992 Summer; 1(3): 197-201.
Mrs. J. is a 76-year-old woman who had been in good health. When she was brought to the hospital 10 days after being involved in an automobile accident, she was found to have severe brain injury and, despite vigorous treatment, has never regained consciousness. The consulting neurologist feels that she has no chance to recover completely and the "best case scenario" is that she may regain some consciousness without ever being able to take care of herself or probably without ever being able to interact with her environment in a meaningful fashion. She and her husband have been very close and had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary when the accident occurred. After long deliberation, her husband states that his wife had often said that "she would never want to live like this" and that she had always had a fear of being a burden to anyone. He wants active treatment stopped and asks that she only be kept comfortable and allowed to die. Their daughter agrees with this decision, although their son who lives in a distant state, feels that all treatment should continue and that she "certainly wouldn't be a burden." Among other considerations brought up by the husband is the fact that there are no financial arrangements to take care of long-term care in a nursing home.