UK Nurse on Video Shutting Off Paralyzed Man’s Life Support

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 25, 2010   |   7:44PM   |   London, England

A British nurse working for the government’s NHS health care program was caught on a videotape shutting off the life support for a paralyzed man.

Jamie Merrett, a quadriplegic, was being kept alive on a ventilator but was mentally able and was able to talk, use a wheelchair and operate a computer using voice-activated technology.

But nurse Violeta Aylward is shown on camera shutting off the ventilator as Merrett struggle for life for 21 minutes until paramedics could arrive and restart it after Aylward, panicking after she realized what she had done, not knowing how to reconnect it.

According to the London Telegraph, it is not known whether Aylward, who has not commented on the incident to British media, purposefully tried to remove the lie support or accidentally disabled it.

But she is shown on video because Merrett’s family set one up after having concerns about the quality of his care. Days after installing the device, Aylward is shown disconnecting the life support.

Karren Reynolds, Merrett’s sister, told the BBC’s Inside Out program “His life is completely changed. He doesn’t have a life now.”

She said Merrett’s family plans to take legal action and the incident resulted in Merrett suffering brain damage that has taken away his mental capacity.

“He has an existence but it’s nowhere near what it was before. He is very brain damaged compared to what he was before,” she explained. “He was a highly intelligent man and you could have long in-depth conversations with him and now it tends to be more simplistic.”

The newspaper indicates Aylward has been suspended while the incident is investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The NHS Wiltshire Primary Care Trust, which was responsible for Aylward’s care, would not comment, the Telegraph reported, because of the pending legal action.