Woman awakens from coma on the same day that life-support was to be withdrawn

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

I have listened, over the years, to many people who have contacted to discuss whether they should discontinue life-sustaining treatment for a person when they are the Power of Attorney for Personal Care.

Bettina Lerman

These are never easy discussions. In these circumstances I will listen to the concerns of the decision maker and ask questions to help them assess what the person would have wanted if they were capable of making the decision or discuss what is the best decision. I only discuss the issues, people have to make decisions for themselves.

Michelle Butterfield, reported for Global News on a 69-year-old Florida woman who came out of coma, related to COVID-19, on the same day as the family had agreed to remove her from life-support. 

Butterfield reported:

Bettina Lerman’s family had already made funeral arrangements and had picked out a casket and headstone for the 69-year-old woman. They were preparing to say goodbye after doctors said it didn’t look like she would ever wake up.

“We had a family meeting with the hospital because 
my mother wasn’t waking up. No matter what they (did), they couldn’t get her to wake up,” Andrew Lerman, Bettina’s son, told CNN. “They said that her lungs are completely destroyed. There’s irreversible damage — that it’s just not going to happen.”

The family was picking up her headstone on Oct. 29 when they received a call from the hospital.

“There’s nothing wrong. Your mother woke up,” the doctor told Andrew, more than four weeks after she was first placed on the ventilator.

Medical professionals are not always right and sometimes a person needs a little more time to awaken.

For instance, a few years ago, a close family member had a profound heart attack. Doctors urged her husband to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, telling him that she would not likely come out of coma, and if she did she would never be the same. 

Her husband insisted on continuing treatment. She not only came out of coma but she fully recovered and remains healthy today.

I am not suggesting that recovery is always possible, but patience and time can save lives.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.