PVS Diagnosis and Euthanasia

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Yenlang Vo is a hospital patient whose life hangs in the balance after her doctors informed her closest kin that medical treatment will be withdrawn under Texas' futile care statute. While a patient of St. David's North Austin Medical Center in Austin, her condition was given the label "persistent vegetative state", a diagnosis that is disputed by the family. Vo's daughter, Dr. Loann Trihn, is an emergency room physician who suggests that her mother is quite responsive, as assertion recently confirmed by witnesses (click here). Unfortunately, Vo's family have until June 5th to find another doctor and facility - otherwise treatment will be withdrawn and her life ended.

Trihn knows her mother and has spent a substantial amount of time interacting with and observing her. Trihn states that her mother needs stimulation prior to responding and the brief visits by her doctors have been inadequate to determine Vo's mental capacity.

Trihn and others are rightly skeptical regarding the PVS designation. Standards for diagnosis of PVS have not even been widely accepted by the medical community. Yet this designation is used in practice to motivate the application of futile care laws for the ultimate withdrawal of care and death of the patient. Terri Schiavo was one such individual who lost her life while Haleigh Poutre cheated death despite being declared "virtually brain dead" and in a "hopeless" state of "persistent vegetation" by her doctors.

Studies indicate PVS requires considerable skill to diagnose, including an assessment over a period of time; diagnosis cannot be made, even by the most experienced clinician, from a bedside assessment:

  • Out of 40 patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, 17 (43%) were later found to be alert, aware, and often able to express a simple wish. The study is one of the largest, most sustained analyses of severely disabled people presumed to be incapable of conscious thinking, communication, or awareness of their surroundings. The author, London neurologist Dr. Keith Andrews, said, "It is disturbing to think that some patients who were aware had for several years been treated as being vegetative.

  • Studies show PVS patients feel pain -- indeed, a Univ. of Mich. neurologist, in one of the most complete studies, concluded that, when food and fluids are withdrawn [to impose death], the patient should be sedated.

  • A study of 84 patients with a "firm diagnosis" of PVS found that 41% regained consciousness by six months, 52% by three years. These statistics certainly discredit the terms "persistent" and "permanent".
In practice, the terms of PVS have become so elastic as to categorize Christine Busalacchi, a young Missouri woman, as PVS -- even though she said "Hi" to a doctor, made sounds to indicate which soap opera she wanted to watch, pushed buttons on a cassette recorder to play tapes and recognized her father on TV.

Why is PVS presently being used by the medical community? Bobby Schindler recently suggested,

What the doctors in the pro-death health care industry needed to do was create a diagnosis that they could use to make it legal to kill patients with profound brain damage that were thought of by doctors to have a quality of life not worth caring for.

... Sadly, the PVS diagnosis continues today to be the driving force behind the health care industry, because as Ive said, in the court of public opinion this confusing and deceptive diagnosis has been accepted and is most of the publics way to determine whether someone should live or die.

Check out the testimonials published at BlogsforTerri. Here are a few:

Husband Recovers after being Diagnosed as PVS

Terri is No Different than My Child

Italian Coma Victim Awakens After Two Years, Says He Heard Everything

She was Clinically Dead

My Husband Recovered

After conversations with the family it is clear that Mrs. Vo's case is desperate. The family is frantically searching for another licensed care facility and a nephrologist who will meet her medical needs. As it stands, there are very few prospects and a June 5th deadline looming. Your prayers would be appreciated. If you have information about possible treatment options or know a physician in Texas you are urged to contact the family.

From the North Country Gazette: Emails to the hospital may be sent through the contact form at http://www.stdavidsmedweb.com/namc/content.asp?id=57. Telephone numbers for St. David's and North Austin Medical Center are 512-901-2500 for administration and 512-397-4215. St. David's main phone number is 512-901-1000.




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