real life

Just married, baby on the way... he told them to turn off life support

Tim Bowers had everything to live for: married in August, his wife was pregnant with their first child.

But two weeks ago he fell from a tree and suffered a severe spinal injury that paralysed him from the shoulders down. Doctors predicted the 32-year-old might never breathe again on his own.

So his family made a heartbtreaking and unusual request: Could he be brought out of sedation to hear his prognosis and decide for himself what he wanted to do?

"We just asked him, 'Do you want this?' And he shook his head emphatically no," explained his sister, Jenny Shultz.

Jenny is an intensive care nurse and understood the severity of her brother's injuries. His C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae were crushed. He would never walk again and might live the rest of his life in a rehabilitation hospital.

"The last thing he wanted was to be in a wheelchair," his wife, Abbey, told IndyStar.com. "To have all that stuff taken away would probably be devastating. He would never be able to give hugs, to hold his baby. We made sure he knew that, so he could make a decision. Even if he decided the other thing, the quality of life would've been very poor. His life expectancy would be very low.

"I completely understood but I was devastated because I didn’t have much time with him."

What makes his case was unusual because it's usually the next of kin, not the patient, who make such decisions. Also, medical ethicists say it's rare for someone to decide to be removed from life support so soon after sustaining an injury.

"I would have taken him in and treated him like a baby again. I would have changed his diapers and taken care of him all over again. But he didn’t want that," his devastated mother, Carol Bowers, said.

But Tim's father, Charles, told Carol she was "being selfish. It would have been selfish for us to keep him. It’s not about us, it’s about Tim and what he wants."

The last five hours of Tim's life were spent with family and friends, about 75 of whom gathered in the hospital waiting room.

"I just remember him saying so many times that he loved us all and that he lived a great life," sister Jenny recalls. "At one point, he was saying, 'I'm ready. I'm ready.' "

Do you think Tim's decision was too hasty?