Imagine that one of your loved ones—your father, mother, or sibling—was in a coma, but was responsive. When you squeezed his hand, he squeezed yours back. When you were in his presence, he knew and responded physically to your voice.
Regardless of this, doctors had stopped feeding him and providing him with water and antibiotics–against your wishes. Why? Because another relative who was neither the guardian nor possessed healthcare power of attorney had asked doctors to remove his feeding tube and stop providing care.
Well, that’s the nightmare that Jesse Ramirez and his family had to endure. Here’s his story.
It all began in the spring of 2007; Jesse and his wife were at odds with each other. During an argument, Jesse lost control of his SUV while driving just outside Phoenix, Arizona, and crashed into a pottery market. Jesse and his wife were thrown from their car, and although both sustained injuries, Jesse’s were far worse. On top of a broken neck and shattered limbs, he had a traumatic brain injury.
After several emergency surgeries, Jesse remained in a coma. And even though he was never on life support, he did need a feeding tube.
But just ten days after the accident, Jesse’s wife stepped in and declared that she wanted the hospital to transfer Jesse to hospice care and to cut off his food and water supply. Just like that, Jesse’s wife had decided to end his life through an agonizing process of dehydration and starvation.
Thankfully, Jesse’s family members fought for his life.
Jesse’s parents hired an attorney who demanded that hospital staff restore Jesse’s food and water. Jesse’s sister then contacted Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed an emergency petition asking the court to make Jesse’s sister his court-appointed guardian.
You see, Arizona law allowed Jesse’s wife to make some medical decisions, but she couldn’t legally order that his food or water be taken away.
At this point, it had already been five days since Jesse’s feeding tube and water had been removed. He didn’t have much time left. Fortunately, the hospice center received news that afternoon that Jesse’s wife had no legal authority to end his life, so doctors once again began Jesse’s recovery treatment plan.
Shortly after, Jesse began making progress once again. He became responsive and moved his arms and legs. Just a few weeks later, it was confirmed that he was conscious. Miraculously, Jesse walked out of the rehab facility just a few months later.
All Jesse needed was sustained food and water—no extraordinary or heroic measures.
Only a year after Jesse walked out of rehab, Arizona adopted “Jesse’s Law.” This law makes sure that there are no loopholes in the decision-making process for patients who can’t communicate their own medical wishes. It makes a promise to families and relatives that their loved ones can easily obtain emergency orders so that a patient is taken care of and nourished while a case moves forward.
“I hope everyone gets a living will and power of attorney, but, if not, there’s something here in Arizona to help them,” Ramirez said shortly after the law was adopted.
Every life should be protected and fought for because every person has dignity and value—no matter one’s age or ability.
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