Essay on The Vegetative State and Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Essay on The Vegetative State and Doctor-Assisted Suicide

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The Vegetative State and Euthanasia

      Much media attention has been directed at the very practical use of euthanasia or assisted suicide on patients who are in a vegetative state or irreversible coma. The truth is that a significant number of such cases actually recover. This essay is devoted to those types, some very young, who would have been killed if euthanasia/assisted suicide had been legalized.


Let's begin our consideration with a nine-year-old named Ryan Atencio. He was taken off life-support systems, except for a feeding tube, after being in a vegetative state following a massive head injury in a December 10, 1988 car accident. "There was no brain function," said Dr. Eustaquio Abay at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Witchita, Kansas. "Three or four times we'd seen the pulse go down to zero -- no circulation at all to the brain for 30 minutes on end." Yet, on January 19, 1989, Ryan squeezed his mother's hand, opened his eyes, and came back to life, so to speak (Boy).


Mitchell Berman, also a 9-year-old, was comatose for 5 months due to hemalytic-uremic syndrome, and was not expected to survive. On May 31, 1991, Mitchell spoke his first words since he went into a coma December 31, 1990. "I want a hot dog," he told his mother. Since then, his progress has been phenomenal, said Dr. Geof McPhee, director of pediatrics at New Medico Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center of the Gulf Coast in Slidell, Louisiana. "If he does have residual deficits, I don't think it's gonna slow this kid down"(Boys).


Yolanda Blake, a 53-year-old New Jersey woman, woke from a coma on December 15, 1990, just one day after a judge ruled that the hospital need not follow the request of the woman's fr...

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"Author recounts nine-day coma that 'transformed my life", Leslie Walters, Minnesota Women's Press, 7/16-29/ 89, p. 9.

"Boy who was 'gone' opens his eyes and squeezes mom's hand", Seattle Post-Intelligencer (United Press International Report), 1/26/89, p. A3

"Boy's complaints welcome after coma," The (FargoMoorhead) Forum (AP Report), 6/9/91, p. A17

"Extraordinary awakening,", 1/4/2000

"Rare procedure helps comatose woman deliver healthy baby", The Billings (MT) Gazette (AP Report), 12/11/88, p. A4.

"State Makes Public Videotape in Right-to-Die Case", The New York Times National, 2/5/91, P. A16

"Woman Denied Food Awakes From Coma", Liz Townsend, National Right to Life News, 1/8/91, pp. 1 and 24.

"Woman in right-to-die case 'is better"', Karen Brandon, Kansas City Star, 1/11/91.1

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