Life and death issues not always black and white

When do we yield the rights of one individual to another, especially one yet unborn?

As medics, we often have the privilege of bringing a new life into this world, as well as ushering one out. Attending matters of life and death brings a unique perspective and understanding of the human condition. Our personal beliefs are tempered by what we experience in the course of our duties. For the medic whose pregnant wife is brain dead and is not permitted by state law to die, this must be an emotionally horrible situation.

The condition of the fetus is not known, due to privacy issues. But we could infer that there is the possibility that it is viable, since a previous Texas case cited in the article allowed the mother to die after determining the fetus was also dead. More information might become available as the story continues to unfold.

This case brings the contentious issue of the right to life back to the forefront. We have not yet come to a consensus when it comes to yielding the rights of one individual to another, especially when it comes to the unborn. What a shock it must be for people that they are unable to make a decision for their loved one in such a catastrophic situation. To me, this should be an intensely private matter that is between the family and their faith, with input from medical authorities and clergy if they so choose.

Major conflicts of personal and professional beliefs can affect our everyday EMS lives. How would you feel if you were in this situation?

About the author

Art Hsieh, MA, NRP teaches in Northern California at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. An EMS provider since 1982, Art has served as a line medic, supervisor and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a textbook writer, author of "EMT Exam for Dummies," has presented at conferences nationwide and continues to provide direct patient care regularly. Art is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Contact Art at and connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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