The Law Blurs The Lines Between Life And Death

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"It seems like there seems to continue to be confusion about what it means to die using neurologic criteria," said Cynda Hylton Rushton, professor of clinical ethics at Johns Hopkins University.

Two recent medical cases are making headlines over the often blurry lines between life, death, medical ethics and the law. When confronting issues like brain death and life support, what is the "right" decision for the patient?

CNN recently considered these two cases in the headlines and the surrounding issues in an article titled “When 'life support' is really 'death support'.

These two cases share at least two things in common: a patient pronounced “brain dead” and the wishes of their families thwarted by the law. In one case, the family of a young girl seeks to keep her on life support as they hold out for a miracle. Her family refuses to accept brain death as true death. In the other case, the husband of a pregnant woman seeks to remove life support, petitioning a court to allow his wife to pass away. However, the hospital is forced to comply with Texas law that outright bans the option.

These are difficult cases. While parents are responsible for their minor children, adults have the responsibility to make their wishes known through proper legal planning in advance. With the start of a new year, this would be an appropriate time to create, review or update your own advance medical directives. Be sure to take the crucial next step and discuss your wishes with your loved ones.

In the very least, this national conversation over these two tragic medical cases should stimulate conversation and action when it comes to your own life and those of your loved ones.

If you'd like to talk with attorney Terry Bertram, visit

Reference: CNN (December 29, 2013) “When 'life support' is really 'death support'



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