Withholding life support

Tina is taken to the nearest emergency department. She is placed on a ventilator and slips into a coma. She is taken to surgery and the gunshot wound is repaired. The surgeon states that with the location of the gunshot wound there is a 50/50 chance that Tina will recover. The surgeon, however, is optimistic and believes that Tina’s chances are likely a little better, although he cannot give an exact percentage. The surgeon is not sure how much brain function Tina will have, although she will have some. Tina remains on a ventilator.

Tina did not have an advanced health directive. Like many, it was one of the things that Tina had meant to do, but had not gotten around to doing. Emily discovers a handwritten note from Tina. In the note, Tina stated that life with incurable cancer wasn’t worth living. She asks the doctors to “finish” her suicide by withholding life support, such as a ventilator, in the event that her survived her suicide attempt. Tina’s family wants Tina taken off the ventilator. The physician, however, is reluctant to remove the ventilator because he is concerned that he would be assisting in a suicide, which is prohibited by state law. What do you believe should be done?

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