Judge Rejects Putting Oregon Man Back on Ventilator

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 18, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Judge Rejects Putting Oregon Man Back on Ventilator

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
November 18, 2003

Portland, OR (LifeNews.com) — A judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt to put an Oregon man back on a ventilator in a case that has some similarities to Terri Schiavo’s situation.

Douglas Schmidt, 37, has been unconscious and severely brain damaged since March when he collapsed in his Portland apartment after a seizure when his medication for epilepsy ran out.

He was removed from a ventilator on Sunday, despite the objections of his partner and sister. Other family members supported the decision.

Circuit Judge Katherine Tennyson rejected a request to place Schmidt back on the ventilator.

“I see no reason to change the decision that has been made,” she said.

Though Terri Schiavo is not in a coma and is able to breathe on her own, the seizure put Schmidt in one. He has been in Portland Adventist Medical Center since late October when he was moved from a nearby convalescent care home because of serious medical conditions involving pneumonia, a collapsed lung, infection and kidney failure.

His mother Sandra Wierzba, of California, said she loves her son but decided to, along with a court appointed guardian and other family members, remove him from the ventilator keeping him alive. Unlike Terri, he is not responding to any attempts to communicate.

"If he gave me one look of acknowledgment that he knows who I am," she said, "then I would fight for his life."

Doctors also stopped giving him food and water and antibiotics to fight his infection. As of late Monday, Schmidt was still breathing on his own.

The guardian’s report cites "a dissenting opinion" by his sister Stephanie Wight and Schmidt’s partner, Werth Sargent, who both, for religious reasons, chose not to participate in removing him from the ventilator.

They accused Schmidt’s other family members and the guardian of wanting to end Schmidt’s life when there was still hope for his recovery.

"Somebody is killing somebody, and it’s not right," Wight said. “At least to the very end I did what I could for him" she said regarding the request to put him back on the breathing machine.

Schmidt ran out of the medication about eight days prior to the seizure. He was covered under a state program that paid $13 a day for the pills, but the program was cut from the Oregon state budget.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s deputy chief of staff, Steve Schneider, said Monday the governor has no plans to intervene in Schmidt’s case.