In Dr. William J. Winslade‘s article “Permanently unconscious patients: a radical proposal”, he highlights the unreasonable policies on prolonging the life of permanently unconscious patients. Winslade states that patients under vegetative state are alive but require extensive care from family, physicians and medical technologies. With the help of artificial nutrition and hydration, patients can survive for years or even decades. And yet, there has not been a clearly stated law or hospital policy on how to deal with such common cases. But according to Dr. Winslade, it is common sense that, after a reliable diagnosis has been made, all artificial life support should be withdrawn to prevent patients from living senseless lives, unless, personal funds or private insurances are used to pay for continuation of treatment.
Patient in a vegetative state lacks the ability to think, feel and human interaction. Winslade states, “Their lives consist only of reflex movement and biological processes. Vegetative state patients are not brain dead, however they are no longer hold essential characteristics to be consider a person. They are unable to interact with their surroundings, they cannot complete simple tasks like talking or feeding themselves, and more importantly, they are incapable of making their own decision. From my point of view, when a person is permanently unconscious, they are unable to communicate with the outside world, they are incapable of making their own decision, so that decision would falls on the family members and the physicians. And those family member and doctors need to be open-minded and realize that by ending an unconscious patient’s live, they are preventing that person from living a senseless life. Dr. Winslade also states, “Medical technology can only prolong their organic lives, no other goals of medicine can be achieved” (pp 1). He emphasizes “organic lives” because their social and personal lives are no longer valid. Other than the technology of respirator and artificial nutrition that are used to keep their hearts pumping and their stomach full, there is nothing else anyone can do but wait for a miracle to happen. Based on past research, the odds are stacked against them. There is only about a 15 percent chance for a vegetative state patient to regains consciousness (Cryanoski). However, it can take as early as several months or it can last for decade.
Dr. Winslade also states, “Numerous surveys reveal that most people would not want organic life prolonged if they we’re permanently unconscious”. With this premise, it is more likely that patients under vegetative state would rather have their artificial nutrition and respirator withdrawn than prolongs their senseless lives. Even though the participants in those surveys are not in a vegetative state, but what those surveys prove is that majority of the people agreed on ending an unconscious person rather than prolonging it, I think that we need to assume that most patients would also agree on the same premise. But on the other hand, a small minority called “vitalists” believes that life at any cost is always preferable to death (Winslade 4). Vitalist often ignore many other valuable considerations and only concentrate on the goal of preserving life. For example, vitalists might find comfort of knowing that their love ones are alive or awake, but I believe that they are purposely ignoring the fact that the patient is unconscious and they are unable to interact with the world. Therefore, prolonging the senseless life of a vegetative state patient is unnecessary when vitalists only focus on preserving life and ignore all the other consequences. Winslade then adds “… physicians and hospital often fear that failure to prolong life at all costs renders them vulnerable to legal liability or violation of medical ethics” (pp 3). Here, he is emphasizing that often physicians and nurses get caught between legal law suits and ending