Thriving vs Surviving: Should One Trump the Other?
“Thriving vs surviving", it all comes down to the issue as to whether the patient’s life is worth living (thriving) in the view of the patient. Take for example the scenario I posted in October 2006 which was based on a real case.
After 4 years on the ventilator, the 34 year old quadriplegic finds nothing to encourage him to live longer in his current condition. He lost his girl friend and no longer can be a motorcycle officer and is fully dependent on others to care for him. He is requesting that the physicians withdraw his life supporting ventilator treatment. The decision seems clear when the patient is conscious and has the capacity to make his own medical decision. But is not always accepted by the physicians as what occurred in the scenario presented.
Hospital ethics committee experience is that the decision is much more difficult to establish when the patient is unconscious and may never awaken to tell the physicians what “thriving” means to the patient’s own life and whether life supportive treatment should be continued or discontinued. The committee must look to family members or friends who know the patient and may report on what their sense is of the values in life for the patient so that some decision can be made.
On the other hand, do you think that under all circumstances including even the conscious patient but especially when the patient is unable to communicate, that the morally correct decision would be that surviving always trumps any consideration of thriving? ..Maurice.
Graphic: Digital photograph taken by me today.