MODERN MEDICINE is amazing. We live in an age when lifesaving organs can be transplanted, when intricate surgeries can be performed through an incision the size of a pinprick, when an implanted manmade device can do the body's work. In short, we live in an age when medical marvels can and do occur.
But the unprecedented science and technology available to us today cannot change one fact of life: There comes a time when death is inevitable. Science may be able to force air into a dying person's lungs or pump nutrients into the digestive system. In short, science can prolong the dying process. But is that really what we want from our health care system?
That's a dilemma that is playing out in a New Jersey appellate court, where judges are being asked to determine whether physicians should be compelled to artificially sustain a dying person's life. The legal drama stems from a case at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth where a team of physicians spent more than a year treating an unresponsive patient who was in a permanent vegetative state with multiple organ failure.
The patient could not breathe on his own, eat on his own or respond to outside stimuli. He was being kept alive purely through science. Five different physicians agreed that there was no hope for his condition to improve and that the requested treatment — kidney dialysis — would not change that outcome. But the patient had not stated his end-of-life preferences ahead of time, and his family ordered the life-sustaining treatments to continue indefinitely.
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N.J. Court Has Chance to Influence Compassionate End-of-Life Care