Woman Wakes Up After Family Says Goodbye, Tubes Pulled

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A West Virginia woman was being transferred to the Cleveland Clinic after walking the line between life and death.

Doctors are calling Val Thomas a medical miracle. They said they can’t explain how she is alive.

They said Thomas suffered two heart attacks and had no brain waves for more than 17 hours. At about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, her heart stopped and she had no pulse. A respiratory machine kept her breathing and rigor mortis had set in, doctors said.

“Her skin had already started to harden and her fingers curled. Death had set in,” said son Jim Thomas.

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Rabbi Yonah

18 Comments

  • I’m not an expert, but why would she fall into rigor mortis while still on the respiratory machine? My grandfather was in a similar condition before he died a few years ago, and I was at the hospital a few hours prior and roughly an hour after his death, and rigor mortis didn’t set in during that time.

  • Every time a hospital declares a “miracle” it’s to cover up some sort of major malpractice that their doctors or nurses committed and to make the patient’s family feel “lucky” rather “litigious”.

    Rabbi, I don’t appreciate the anti-euthanasia statement thrown in so cavalierly. If you would like to educate Jewlicious readers on the “authentic” (read: Orthodox) Jewish opinion of euthanasia, please do so in the serious and respectful manner the subject deserves.

  • Chutzpah: I think “don’t pull the plug on Bubby” is a good enough approximation of the Orthodox opinion of euthanasia.

    Anyway you are confusing the issue of euthanasia – the pre-emptive murder of still-living people based on anticipated expense or suffering – with the issue of application/continuation of artificial lif-support technology to a person whose body is already failing to function.

    The two are related but not identical. Judaism has its own guidelines for end-of-life support – but never endorses active or passive euthanasia of those still living.

    Promoters of euthanasia killing often use emotional accounts of protracted end-of-life support to garner support for their murderous policies – to assert that they are just being “humane” and “reasonable”.

    So: their opponents have learned how to use similar cases to drive home their points – that medical diagnosis is not ironclad, and that “pulling the plug” is not always “reasonable”.

  • The line between ending someone’s life based on anticipated expense and suffering and the application/continuation of artificial life-support technology is very fine. When people are considering ending their life or that of a loved one based on anticipated expense and suffering it’s usually because they are already using alot of technology to continue to allow life anyway.

    I don’t want to debate it here. I just felt the “don’t pull the plug on Bubby” line was in very poor taste and meant to summarize the Orthodox opinion on end of life issues since it came from a Rabbi.

    If it was just meant to illustrate that miracles can and do happen, o.k.

  • ‘Garner support for their murderous policies’?

    B-D, you can be SUCH a demonizer! You make it sound like the goal is to enjoy a murder that you can finally get away with!

    Muffti thinks that everyone agrees that medical diagnoses are not always iron-clad, and everyone agrees that pulling the plug is not ALWAYS reasonable. Muffti thinks the usual claim is that sometimes it is reasonable and especially in societies that bear the brunt of health care, sometimes keeping people alive in vegetative states puts a drag on the system that can’t be afforded.

    But Muffti agrees – both sides use appeals to emotion that have no place in reasonable law making and debate on a serious issue.

  • Muffti:
    B-D, you can be SUCH a demonizer! You make it sound like the goal is to enjoy a murder that you can finally get away with!
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    There is no implication that people enjoy killing others…. but that is in fact what they are advocating.

    Murder is the killing of people who would otherwise live.

    Dutch law – which was supposed to “regulate” voluntary and involuntary medical killing – included healthy people in “unbearable” psychological distress from the start, and has persistently extended the definition of “unbearable pain” to include able-bodied people likely to recover if treated.

    Dutch doctors have assisted a healthy woman – distraught over the deaths of her children – in killing herself, rather than helping her recover from her depression. They have also assisted in killing a young anorexic woman who asked to die because she feared relapsing into her old behaviors.

    Killing these people is murder.

    Advocating the legalization of such killings is a “murderous policy”.

    That’s what I wrote.

    Your objection is (perhaps) similar to Obama’s certainty that Bush’s talk of “appeasers” referred to him…

  • You’ll have to forgive Muffti…he hasn’t sparred with B-D for a while and has gone rusty 🙂

    And Muffti isn’t sure just how many people you will find who endorse what the dutch doctors did in the cases you describe (Muffti trusts you on the details even) — they sound like malpractice cases to be honest. Can you find muffti people who answer ‘yes’ to teh following questions:

    * Should doctors assist in the killing of those who are depressed but can be treated?

    Good luck to you! Which makes Muffti wonder just who are you talking about?

    And who was bush talking about?

  • Incidentally, the definition of ‘murder’ you give clearly applies to capital punishment as well. But Muffti would find it equally misleading to characterize advocates of capital punishment as advocates of a murderous policy.

  • Asked around, poor old grandma possibly was unconscious and dehydrated. The dehydration could have led to her skin hardening and her fingers curling up.

    Muffti, there are politicians in the Netherlands that demand “euthanasia” of possibly handicapped fetuses to become mandatory.

    There’s a strong difference between disconnecting someone from a machine that artificially maintains body functions needed for survival while the person itself has got no brain signals whatsoever that could deliberately control any life functions of the body and assisting people with suicide. The debate on that has been ongoing over here, particularly the definition of “death” seems to be rather controversial as some groups determine death to be when somebody’s braindead (clinically dead), others claim death sets in no sooner than when the heartbeat stops – which can be simulated almost endlessly thanks to technology.

  • “Judaism has its own guidelines for end-of-life support – but never endorses active or passive euthanasia of those still living.”

    B-D – What are those guidelines? And what do they say about living wills? I suppose I could look it up myself…

  • Ramon Marcos…don’t have time to look it up or research it ,but I suppose the entire Jewish Law can on end of life issues can be summed up by saying “Don’t pull the plug on Bubby”. That’s about as much as most people have time to investigate it until the situation falls in their lap and then they have to just “trust their local Rav”.

  • 1) There has been enormous scholarly effort and discussion on the Halachic definition of death – basically our prominent Rabbis are trying to reframe the Halachic definition of death in the light of modern medical capabilities.

    I am not a Rabbi nor have I read much beyond laymen’s articles, but: previously lack of heartbeat/pulse was taken as the indicator of death. Now the ability to scan brain function, and the understanding of brain stem control of basic functions, has been incorporated into the Halachic discourse.

    One still has to consult a Rabbi if one is faced with such a situation – because each situation is different, and because communal support is obviously part of the Jewish approach to such situations.

    2) Muffti wrote:
    Can you find muffti people who answer ‘yes’ to teh following question: Should doctors assist in the killing of those who are depressed but can be treated?
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Well, yes – basically the entire Dutch medical and legal establishments have acquiesced to just that position.

    The original law specifically included people without terminal illness, yet in “unbearable suffering”.

    And the medical review boards and the courts have consistently allowed the broadening of this definition.

    In the Chabot case – the mother depressed by her children’s deaths – there was no conviction, the choice to kill her was judged to be acceptable within legal guidelines.

    Same for the case of the anorexic woman – and for the case of an HIV-positive man who dreaded the onset of the disease even though he was on drug treatment and had no disabling symptoms.

    All these murders did not result in conviction or overturning of the medical/ethical reasoning behing them. That is – they have been accepted as viable medical practice.

    In the context of a discussion of euthanasia – killing people who would otherwise live is murder.

    Muffti, I realize you – being a good Western academic – have immediately sprung up to defend the politically correct pose. But you do need to read up a bit more.

    Holland and Belgium are way down the slippery slope already.

    This site is a good place to start – although it’s not a recognizable organization, it’s a good summary of information I’ve read elsewhere.

    http://law.jrank.org/pages/1100/Euthanasia-Assisted-Suicide-Euthanasia-in-Netherlands.html

    Notice especially:

    – the deceptive reporting on Dutch euthanasia rates, which excludes some very common methods such as large morphine dosages

    – the government’s admission that more than half of doctor-initiated killings are still taking place under the radar.

    – the significant number of involuntary medical murders without patient consent – in direct contravention of a major legal safeguard. There’s probably even more of that activity going on unreported.

  • That’s an interesting read; Muffti has to admit that his semi-rhetorical question was aimed at north americans rather than the dutch medical establishment. It seems to muffti, though, that the dutch law sounds reasonable – it seems like the supreme court that is dropping the ball here (though muffti wasn’t there, doesnt’ know the details of the case, etc. but from the description). i.e. the link you sent muffti seems to shore up certain points law makers have to be careful about. that doesn’t seem to touch much on the general point as to whether or not euthanasia is an acceptable practice. It seems to suggest that euthanasia laws had better be very carefullly written and laws tightly enforced.

  • Ben-David,
    Let’s not forget that many of our prominent Rabbi’s are abusers of child labor laws, abusers of immigration laws, susceptible to being bought off by rich people, users of prostitutes, people who cheat on their taxes etc., etc., etc., To summarize …I don’t care how “prominent” they are, they still are only human, the key part of that word being “man” and they all have their dirty little secrets in their own closets. Blah, Blah,Blah to all their scholarship and studying…they probably supported their studies by working their wives to the bone or collecting welfare under their children’s social security #’s.

    The expression “the longer the beard, the bigger the crook” did not just pop up someplace because the general stereotype isn’t partially (or mostly) true. When it comes to my dog and my loved ones, I’ll sit down and have a conversation with G-d and listen to what’s in my heart …as for what Rashi and the Ebin Ezra said …they are already dead so I guess they don’t care much at this point.

  • When does the post entitled “Don’t give away your son’s organs if he accidentally dies while partying on Purim” go up?

    Of course the dead need every drop of blood buried with them. If they didn’t, teams of righteous people would spend time comforting the bereaved and helping to triage the wounded after a terror attack instead of the very useful and practical salvaging of blood drops from the terror site.

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