I am disgusted. Ashamed really of American society. Timothy Bowers is dead. Few will recognize the name even though his death has gone viral. The mainstream press refers to him as “a deer hunter”. His death is a tragedy. I can see in three or four years a made for TV movie—a real tear jerker. Average man, on an average day, with a newlywed wife and baby on the way goes out to hunt. He has done this many times. He is an avid outdoors man. But tragedy strikes. He falls 16 feet and crushes his C-3/4 vertebra. Imaging suggests he will most likely be a vent dependent quad. Not to worry though, he will be heroic. He will die. And he does indeed seemingly choose to die. The story is full of emotion and short of logic. In fact the story I have just told is utter bull shit.
Bowers needlessly died. In fact when I first read the story my first thought was this man was murdered. Legally killed by his family and physicians. Bioethicists are providing the post mortem cheer squad. Patients rights reign supreme. This is what happens when health care is a commodity. This is what happens when people see a paralyzed person and the first thought is about the expense of keeping such a person alive. So the heart broken physician enters the picture with long white coat flowing and perhaps blue scrubs, the very representation of human compassion, and paints a grim picture of a sudden spinal cord injury. The man is heavily sedated. Imaging depicts a devastating wound at C-3/4. He will likely be a respirator dependent quad. Tears flow. A grim reality is explained—medical costs will be staggering. Life in an institution is a reality. Bankruptcy a real possibility. Framed in this manner death seems preferable. But wait! We must be ethical. We cannot just end this man’s life—he wife is pregnant for goodness sake. Sedation is lessened and the man is told the gravity of his situation. He wants to die. His family wants him to die. His wife recalls they were at a charity event helping paralyzed people and he was clear life using a wheelchair was not what he wanted. The respirator is turned off. The man dies.
What is missing? Stephen Hawking. Jean Dominique Bauby. Stephen Gleason. More than one board member of the grass roots group Not Dead Yet. The very real and significant possibilities of life as a vent dependent quad are never mentioned. No effort is made to contact anyone with a comparable disability. This is a one sided rush to a death. This man was not given a legitimate choice. Worse yet, this man’s autonomy is praised by those in bioethics. We were ethical. No, you were not. Bioethicists support the easy, simple idea death is preferable to life with a disability. I get it. I have been in a bed when under different circumstances I got similar advice from so called compassionate care giver. Let me tell you it is easy to die when you are paralyzed. When one expresses such sentiments a veritable cheering squad supports you. The opposite side of this reality, the decision to live as paralyzed man is frowned upon. The worse the paralysis the more narcissistic you are thought to be. A selfish and costly existence, a social burden, the representation of the limits of medical science. I suggest bioethicists, hell any bipedal person, talk to a few paralyzed people. This will not happen because somewhere along the line dissent became unpatriotic. Advocacy in the realm of bioethics and politics is a dirty word.