While attending this year’s American Association of Critical-Care Nurses National Teaching Institute meeting, AJN editor-in-chief Shawn Kennedy heard a story that she felt all nurses needed to hear as a reminder of the impact a nurse’s advocacy can have on a patient.
Critical care nurse Katie George, just a few years into her career when the events in the story took place, was caring for Ms. A., a young woman whose spinal cord had been nearly severed in a car accident.
Faced with a prognosis suggesting that Ms. A.’s quality of life would be poor and that she would have to remain on a ventilator, Ms. A.’s family made what they felt was the humane decision to have her removed from life support. But Ms. A.’s fiancé—and her nurse Katie George—were convinced that Ms. A., who seemed to be able to communicate by blinking in response to questions, should at least be given the chance to make the decision for herself.
Ms. A. was suffering from locked-in syndrome, a condition in which the patient is conscious and eye movement is functional despite full body paralysis. Giving her a chance to decide her own fate would require finding a way to legally validate Ms. A.’s mental capacity, although her physicians felt that this might not be possible. […]