Paralyzed Indiana hunter chooses to end life support after accident
When Tim Bowers was paralyzed last weekend after falling from a tree while hunting, his family thought the avid outdoorsman may not want to live tethered to a ventilator for life.
So they asked doctors to bring the Indiana man out of sedation and asked him.
Doctors agreed, and Bowers told them and his family he did not want extra measures taken to keep him alive. The 32-year-old died Sunday, just hours after his breathing tube was removed.
“We just asked him, ‘Do you want this?’ And he shook his head emphatically no,” said his sister, Jenny Shultz.
Bowers suffered a severe spinal injury Saturday when he fell 16 feet from a tree while hunting deer not far from his Decatur home.
Doctors said Bowers was paralyzed from the shoulders down and might never breathe on his own again.
His family said Bowers had previously told his wife, whom he’d married August 3, that he would never want to spend his life in a wheelchair.
Courts have consistently upheld the right of patients to refuse life support, but Bowers’ case was unusual because he made the decision himself, rather than his family members or surrogates, as is often the case.
Bowers’ sister is an intensive care nurse, and she said she understood the severity of her brother’s injuries – three vertebrae were crushed in the middle portion of his neck.
Surgery to fuse the broken vertebrae might have allowed Bowers to sit up, but he would’ve spent the rest of his life in a rehabilitation hospital and reliant on a machine to breathe.
Bowers was unable to speak when he was removed from sedation because of the breathing tube, but Schultz said he made it clear he did not want the tube reinserted once it was removed, even if he struggled.
He spent the last five hours of his life surrounded by his family and about 75 friends, who prayed and sang songs with Bowers.
“I just remember him saying so many times that he loved us all and that he lived a great life,” Schultz said. “At one point, he was saying, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready.'”
Schultz said her brother’s decision was not one many would make, but she said Bowers’ ability to make it himself gave comfort to her family.
“No outcome was ever going to be the one that we really want,” she said. “But I felt that he did it on his terms in the end.”