Unfortunately, the outcome of the surgery was that she became ventilator-dependent paralyzed from the neck down and needing 24-hour care. Once the family was in the hospital, they held a family conference agreeing that Ms. B would not want to continue on in this state, and they petitioned the hospital to remove her from the ventilator. The hospital refused still believing the potential for legal ramifications. The family was distraught; but eventually, with the guidance of a lawyer they retained, they were able to have her transferred to another facility (Hospital #2) that was willing to take her off the ventilator knowing that the chances of her making it were slim. The felt that they were honoring her wishes along with her families’ wishes.
A day later Ms. B was taken off the ventilator and she expired within the hour. The family felt like they had done the right thing and they retained the lawyer to sue the initial hospital stating that they had not honored the wishes of their loved ones. In the trial, the hospital claimed that there was not enough evidence that Ms. B wished to not be placed on machines as the family claimed, even though it was witnessed by a nurse that the anesthesiologist for the care engaged her in a conversation about this very topic before her aneurysm burst. The hospital maintained that without documentation to that claim, they could not honor her wishes.
In a surprising turn of events, the family filed suit in the Court of Appeals and won. The appellate court agreed with the family stating that any conversation, whether it be personal or professional could be used to reach a conclusion about one’s desire about the nature of their own death.