Australia Automobile Accident Victim in Terri Schiavo-like Family Debate

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 11, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Automobile Accident Victim in Terri Schiavo-like Family Debate

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 11, 2006

Adelaide, Australia ( — A family is embroiled in a feud over a 31 year-old man injured in an automobile accident that left him comatose. Doctors say they have no more hope for Mark Leigep’s condition to improve and his mother wants a feeding tube supplying him with food and water to be removed.

But, Mark’s brother Brian Leigep disagrees with the doctors and says he sees Mark’s condition improving.

Leigep suffered head injuries as a result of the March 26 accident and doctors say scans show no sign of improvement. His mother, Joanne Dunn, who newspaper reports indicate did not raise him, is siding with physicians who want to remove the feeding tube.

However, Brian Leigep tells the Australian newspaper that Mark, a single father of one, has opened his eyes for several minutes and indicated that physiotherapy sessions have shown enough success that he thinks his brother can recover.

"I call out ‘Mark look at me’ and his eyes roll back and it looks like I’m getting through," Brian, a nurse, told the Australian. "But the doctors want him to do more … to respond when he’s pinched on the skin … but he doesn’t respond."

Brian told the newspaper he thinks his mother should not be given the legal right to determine whether Mark lives or dies.

"The way I see it Mum never brought me and Mark up," he said. "She gave us away to my paternal grandparents and I don’t feel that she has any right in the decision-making of Mark."

"He really didn’t have anything to do with her and, now that this has happened, she is wanting to switch him off," Brian added.

A familiar dispute enveloped the family of Terri Schiavo, whose 13-day starvation and dehydration death at the hand of her former husband set of an international debate about euthanasia and medical care for the disabled.

Though Terri responded to her parents and doctors who examined her, a court ruled she was in a permanent vegetative state and gave Michael Schiavo the legal right to take her life.