Case raises agonizing end-of-life questions

“Lana Barnes believes her husband suffers from chronic Lyme disease, and that antibiotic treatment of the tick-borne bacterial infection would reverse his dementia — and necessitate treatment for his other conditions as well.”

Excerpted from the  ( Posted: 01/31/2011 ) 

Al Barnes lay motionless in his hospital bed — head to the side, mouth agape — as the court-appointed attorney searched for consciousness in his 85-year-old client.

“Al!” yelled the attorney, Steven Beseres, to no avail.

He touched Barnes’ arm, then squeezed it, then shook it. No response.

“I was shocked by what I saw,” Beseres later said of the bedside visit on Jan. 21.

Whether Barnes is dying is in dispute, with his wife, Lana, and doctors from Methodist Hospital due to resume arguments over his medical care Wednesday in Hennepin County Probate Court.

No matter who prevails, the dispute has re-opened unsettling and widely debated questions about end-of-life care: when to pursue aggressive care, when to let death take its course, and who makes that call. Whether people agree with Lana Barnes’ controversial claims or not, the case also plays on their fears of what might happen if they disagree with their doctors.

“That is what makes this particular case so unsettling for so many people,” said Michele Goodwin, a professor of law and public health at the University of Minnesota, “because one doesn’t want for one’s spouse to be harassed, especially when that person is attempting to carry out what he or she believes that the individual would have wanted.”

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~ by Rob on February 1, 2011.

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