An Indiana hunter who was injured in a fall on Saturday decided to end his life support. Hunter Tim Bowers loved being outdoors. Going hunting allowed him some quiet time to be able to relax and reflect on his hectic life which included a new wife, a prosperous business and a baby that was on the way.
He was out enjoying that special time while deer hunting on Saturday when he fell over 15 feet from a tree and suffered a severe injury to his spine which paralyzed him from his shoulders down. Doctors believed he might never be able to breathe on his own again.
Threatened with such a grim prognosis, Bowers’ family asked for a very unusual request of the doctors at the hospital he was in. Would they bring the man out of sedation long enough to tell him of his condition so he could decide on his own if he chose to live or die?
The doctors agreed, and the injured Indiana hunter made his decision.
He was asked if he wanted to live like this and he shook his head forcefully no, stated his sister, Jenny Shultz.
Courts have long supported patients’ rights to refuse any life support. The American Medical Association explained that competent adults are able to make directives stating when or if they want such systems taken away or withheld if injuries or illness leave them incapable of making such decisions.
However, it is uncommon that after a devastating injury a patient would be allowed to make such a judgment for himself. The heart straining call to take away life support is usually left to proxies who have to talk for the patients. Even when a critically injured person has drawn his wishes for stopping care, the decision can split families apart.
Shultz has seen it occur in her place of employment. But her medical training also meant she knew the harshness of the injuries her brother had suffered. His C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were destroyed. Although his brain had not but hurt, his body was completely and irreversibly broken. Surgery might be able to mesh the vertebrae, but that would only let Bowers sit up. He would never be able to walk again or hold his newborn baby. He would possibly reside the rest of his life in a rehabilitation center, having to depend on a machine in which to help him breathe. He would never be able to hunt again or do any other outdoor activates which gave him joy.
He could not talk because of a ventilator tube in his throat. Shutlz explained to him that if the tube was removed, the doctors were not sure how long he could survive. But when she asked him if he wanted it back in, he shook his head no. Doctors got the same response after talking to him and so the tube was removed on Sunday.
He would live another five hours. They were spent with his family and friends. Over 70 came to the northern Indiana hospital and gathered in the waiting room. Everyone sang songs and prayed. Bowers never wavered in his decision to die through all this.
Medical ethicists state that it is unusual for patients to decide on the spot to be taken off life support, particularly so soon after such an injury. But typical medical principles grant more independence to patients, and courts uphold their rights to decide to die.
Shultz believes her family already knew what her brother wanted because he had earlier talked with his wife, Abbey, whom he married on Aug. 3 of this year, and he had told her how he never wanted to spend his life inside of a wheelchair.
She knows that not everyone would have made the same decision as her brother but she is glad he was able to make his own judgment and that Indiana law allowed him to be able to.
Shultz explained that none of the outcomes were going to be any of the ones that her family really wanted, but she felt that her brother was able to die on his own terms.
Her Indiana hunter brother who was injured in the fall was able to end his life the way he lived it, the way he wanted and for that she is grateful.
By Kimberly Ruble
Frankfort State News
North Dakota Forum