Q&A Friday #13: Should A Person In A PVS Be Allowed To Die If That Was Their Wish?

Question: “I know you want to stay away form the Schiavo case, but I’d like a more central and generalizable issue addressed: If someone really is in a PVS, and their wish not to continue on as such was explicit and not a matter of debate, should that person be allowed to die?” — brs04wsc

Answer: Yes, if their wishes were made clear, they should be allowed to die. Moreover, it’s my opinion that if someone is in a Persistent Vegetative State — and unlike in the Schiavo case, there’s no controversy over the diagnosis — then I have no problem with a relative choosing to pull the plug or the feeding tube. I would even go so far as to say that the State should be allowed to say, “If there’s a guardian who’d like to pay for continued treatment, fine. But, we’re not going to continue to pick up the tab given that there’s no hope of recovery.”

Of course, none of these elements are present in the Schiavo case where Terri’s wishes can’t be ascertained, there isn’t certainty about the PVS diagnosis, and there are parents willing to pick up the tab.

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