The recent controversies over two brain-dead women on life support leads me to this post. If the subject line sounds a little circumspect, it’s because I’m struggling to find the right words to deal with this.
Suppose I visit a brain-dead relative who is on life support in the hospital. Further suppose one of two preconditions:
- the decision has already been made to withdraw life support and harvest the organs for donation.
- the decision to withdraw life support has not yet been made.
Suppose that I now assault this brain-dead relative. Break bones, loosen teeth, whatever. What can I be charged with, assuming either of the above preconditions?
Suppose instead that I take steps to end my brain-dead relative’s metabolic activity. I’m hesitant to use the word “kill” here because this relative is already brain-dead. But let us suppose I physically withdraw their life support myself, or slit their wrists, or bisect their body, whatever. The brain is already dead, but now the heart stops and decomposition begins at the rate you would expect for a corpse. Assuming either of the above preconditions, what could I be charged with for these actions?