Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Death In Suspension

She is dead, for her cognitive ability is gone, her brain is dead, her mind nonexistent, where once, not so long ago, it was alert, responsive and fully autonomous. And perhaps, in death, she deserves the dignity of respect in recognition of what she once was, and what has become of her.

Dylan Benson
Dylan and Robyn Benson. Robyn has been brain dead since Dec. 29, the day after she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at home.    Photograph by: Dylan Benson, Facebook
"[She] asked me to go to the store to get some Tylenol for her and when I came back she was unconscious on the bathroom floor."
"My wife is now essentially legally brain dead."
"Her family and my friends are all very supportive and all think that my wife would want me to try and give our child the best life possible, so that's what I'm going to try and do, assuming that all goes well and I actually get to meet him."
"My head and my heart are constantly playing this chess match and it's so painful. On one hand I can't wait to meet my son and try and give him the best life possible and try my hardest to be a great dad for him; on the other hand, I know that the day or the day after he is born will be the day that I have to say goodbye to Robyn."
Facebook, Dylan Benson, 32, British Columbia
Victoria Dylan and Robyn Benson on their wedding day. Robyn has been brain dead since Dec. 29, the day after she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at home.   Photograph by: Brij Charan, Victoria Times Colonist
"It happens so exceptionally rarely. I think he's holding up pretty good considering, but it's a challenge. Because, as he says, when his son is born, he'll be saying goodbye to his wife at the same time. That's a challenge because she's on life support. Dylan can visit and feel the baby and do things that expectant parents do. Robyn's body is healthy, her belly is growing, he can hold her hand and it's warm. But he knows, logically, that she will not wake up."
Interview, Jeremy Baker, family friend
"It's not common but, of course it can happen. That's the nature of modern medicine now. Years ago, you couldn't have this situation because the mother wouldn't have survived."
"Most mothers say they would rather die than sacrifice their child. That's what parents -- especially mothers, by the way -- have done through human history."
"It's a basic biological drive, the preservation of the species. She would probably say that if this is what it takes to keep the child alive, we will do it."
Dr. Michael Gordon, program director, palliative care, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto
The grieving husband has decided that he will become a doting father. When his wife Robyn, 32 years of age like her husband, was at her 22nd week of pregnancy she suffered a brain hemorrhage. When he accompanied his unconscious wife to the Victoria General Hospital, doctors in the intensive care unit told him they would make an effort to keep her 'alive' until the fetus she was carrying was at least 34 weeks at which stage the odds of successfully delivering the boy, already named Iver by his proud parents, might be achieved.

Since, in Canada, a fetus has no legal standing under the law, presumably Robyn's husband was asked by hospital physicians how they should proceed?  Allow her to physically expire by removing her from life support, since to all extents and purposes anyone who is brain-dead is effectively no longer of this world. (Despite Dr. Gordon's assertion that had no place in this conversation about the mother 'surviving', since obviously this one could not, would not, did not.) Or nurture the fetus by keeping its host alive so that the process of maturation could take place with the hope that a baby might finally be delivered from its fleshly incubator.

And, obviously, the father of the nascent child whose mother had departed this living realm, decided that if he could not be a husband with a child to father, he would nonetheless be a father to a child he would raise without his wife at the child's side. And, he has famously -- or infamously, take your pick -- taken to Facebook to chronicle the disaster that has befallen his little family. And, alongside his Facebook account, he opened another sited presence titled "Baby Iver Fund" through the website

The public has supported the would-be father's appeal for funding subscription most handsomely. He has cited his concern over expenses required to cope with a temporary leave of absence from his place of employment, setting a goal of $36,000, which has now been vastly exceeded, having swelled beyond $100,000. A sympathetic public obviously feeling great sorrow for the dread misfortune that has taken the life of a vibrant young woman in pregnancy has responded rather predictably, and it must be hoped not gullibly.

Jeremy Baker, Mr. Benson's longtime friend, speaks of his dreadfully unfortunate wife being on life support to preserve the potential future of the child she is carrying to term, if doctors' plans go as well as hoped. Not precisely life support, since she is now, effectively, a corpse being utilized as an incubator, medical science not yet having succeeded in emulating nature to the point where other, artificially workable means could be used to bring a fetus to the state where it could be harvested in prime condition, to put it baldly.

And Dr. Michael Gordon's assessment of the situation, calling to mind the fierceness with which most mothers seek to shield and protect their offspring from harm, relates that, to his experience, or/and through narratives and popular belief, it could be reasonably inferred that Robyn Benson, would have wanted to do the same thing, for her child. Except for the fact that women become attached to the emotional love they have for children they raise and nurture and whose presence they have witnessed from birth onward.

The 'basic biological drive' of which the doctor speaks certainly may not be as fundamental to the needs and options of a mother where a birth impends somewhat down the line into the future, for the developing fetus she is carrying. That 'biological drive' would relate to an existing child, not toward the concept of a fetus, viewed as one might a child, for nothing could be further from actual fact for most women.

Dylan Benson
Robyn Benson has been brain dead since Dec. 29, the day after she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at home. She is being kept alive until she gives birth to baby Iver.      Photograph by: Dylan Benson
"The point is really about having some very robust conversations. This isn't about what you necessarily want, it's about what your partner would have wanted done", was the opinion of Dianne Godkin, senior ethicist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ontario.

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