I have just received a link to an article by Tia Ghose and published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The article is about a very difficult case in Antioch Illinois concerning Dan Crews (27), who was paralyzed in a car crash at age 3 and reportedly wants to die by the withdrawal of his ventilator.

Crews is ventilator dependent and has been petitioning the Froedtert Hospital to withdraw his ventilator.

Crews states that: “He is physically incapable of ending his life.”

But the facts of the case are a little different.

First: Crews has the right to refuse medical treatment, including the withdrawal of the ventilator.

The story states that:

“Hospital psychiatrists and mental health professionals say he is depressed and must be treated for it before they will consider such an irrevocable step, according to his medical records. Crews said his desire to die stems not from his depression, but from his poor quality of life and the low odds that it will ever improve.”

Concerning the right to refuse treatment the story correctly stated:

“Courts have nearly universally recognized that right,” said Laura Leitch, general counsel to the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

But Crews isn’t a cancer patient in hospice care. Other than needing a ventilator to breathe, he is young and has no other life-threatening conditions.

Legally he still has the right to discontinue treatment, Leitch said. But in practice, it can be difficult for non-terminal patients to refuse lifesaving treatment.

Before doctors honor a patient’s wishes, they must determine whether the patient is competent, and hospitals have broad leeway in determining competency,

The issue of Dan Crew’s quality of life can change.

Steven Fletcher, is the Member of the Canadian Parliament and cabinet minister in the Harper Conservative government from Winnipeg (Charleswood – St. James – Assiniboia riding).

Fletcher, at the age of 22, had a car accident. His car hit a moose resulting in a broken (severed) neck leaving him a quadriplegic with no sensation below his neck.

Fletcher has been able to become a respected and important political leader, not by regaining his physical ability but by overcoming his physical limitations. He is truly a remarkable person.

Fletcher is not the only person who has lived a successful life with limited physical capacity.

Dan Crews has the right to refuse treatment. If the psychiatric team considered him mentally competent, his request to have his ventilator turned off would be honoured.

Another concern that needs to be addressed is the fact that the:

Illinois Medicaid often denies requests for the 24-hour care he needs to stay in his home, so he risks being put in a nursing home,

The article is also connected to a suspiciously written poll. The poll states: Should people with high-level disabilities be given the right to terminate their lives? The poll question appears to be asking whether or not euthanasia should be legal for people with high-level disabilities, but this is not an article about euthanasia, but rather the right to refuse medical treatment.

I suggest that people who read this article should vote NO on this online poll.

We do not oppose the right to refuse medical treatment but because the online poll question can be construed as supporting the legalization of euthanasia, it must be opposed.

Dan Crews needs to be treated for depression. He needs to become active and live outside of the hospital. Just because he is ventilator dependent doesn’t mean that his life is not worth living.

Theresa Ducharme was a friend of mine who died in 2004, at the age of 59. She founded the disability group – People in Equal Participation. Ducharme contracted polio at the age of 8 and lived her life ventilator dependent, requiring a wheel chair for her mobility.

Ducharme was partially responsible for changing how people with disabilities were treated in Canada. She also got married, was politically active, and brought disability cases to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The better answer is to enable Crew to become all that he can be. He is capable of achieving great things in spite of his physical limitations