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A Dying Man's Wish To Save Others Hits Hospital Ethics Hurdle

By Kaiser Health News  
   January 03, 2017

An ALS patient wanted to donate his organs when he died. He asked to be admitted to the hospital specifically to end his life. And despite the planning, his request made some people uncomfortable.

This article first appeared January 3, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Karen Shakerdge, Side Effects Public Media

At 44 years old, Dave Adox was facing the end of his two-year battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He needed a ventilator to breathe and couldn't move any part of his body, except his eyes. Once he started to struggle with his eyes — his only way to communicate — Adox decided it was time to die.

He wanted to donate his organs, to give other people a chance for a longer life. To do this, he'd need to be in a hospital when he went off the ventilator.

"I was always interested in organ donation and had checked the box on my license," Adox said last spring at his home in South Orange, N.J., through a machine that spoke for him. He laboriously spelled out these words, letter by letter, by focusing his eyes on a tablet.

"When I got diagnosed with ALS at 42, and the disease paralyzed my entire body in six months, I definitely developed a greater appreciation of the value of the working human body," he said.

Adox and his husband, Danni Michaeli, made a plan. They would go to University Hospital in Newark, N.J., where Adox often had been treated, and have his ventilator disconnected. The doctors there had reassured Adox he could ask to come off the ventilator anytime.

In May his family and friends flew in from around the country, and joined neighbors for a big celebration of Adox's life. They spent one last weekend with him, planting a tree and painting a big, colorful mural in his honor. Some wore T-shirts printed with Adox's motto, "Celebrate everything until further notice."

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Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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