A substantial group, including Williams and other doctors caring for Brown, had gathered in the upscale boardroom in the administrative building of the
hospital. Everyone sat at a large round table. The orthopedic surgeon in the case recommended amputations but also warned about the subsequent disability
that would follow. The ethics committee members said that even though it is a norm to rely on families for making such decisions, "a decision to forego 30 to 40 years of
potential life was weighty."
Ultimately, though, the committee was convinced that the family was acting in good faith.
The family was given two options: either continue the current level of care and attempt within 10 days readdress the question with the patient or else
discontinue mechanical ventilation immediately.
As he was constantly monitoring Brown's condition, Williams told the committee that there was a high likelihood that Brown would survive even without
But even after an extensive discussion, Brown's family said the life support should be discontinued. They feared that if the process were delayed, Brown
would have a life of unwanted disability.
The hospital asked the family if someone wanted to come and meet Brown one last time. Hospitals orchestrate the withdrawal of life support so that families
can visit, say their final goodbyes. All the unnecessary equipment around Brown was removed. All the beeping alarms, the respirator and blinking monitors
were discontinued. Bedside space was created for the family in case they wanted to be around Brown in what could possibly be his last moments.
The doctors turned off the breathing machine and took the tube out of his windpipe. Brown showed no respiratory distress, though. He began breathing on his
own; calmly, comfortably.
After being sedated for 15 days, Brown began regaining consciousness. Brown's sister tried speaking with him. She told him about the decision that the
family had taken. She explained that the doctors had suggested amputation of his hands and legs.
To her surprise, Brown said, "Do whatever it takes."
There was some concern among doctors about how the family would react to Brown's decision. To their surprise, the family accepted it calmly. "There wasn't
any rancor. It wasn't as dramatic as [I] expected," said Williams.
And within less than a month and amputations of his four limbs, Brown was discharged from the hospital.
Several weeks later, Brown was sitting on a wheelchair in the hospital waiting room wearing the hospital gown. He was reading a magazine that lay on his
tray table. All four of his stumps were wrapped as he waited to be transferred to a rehab center. Williams introduced himself. Brown held out a stump
to shake hands. Brown had no idea who Williams was.
When Williams explained the sequence of events that had happened with him, Brown said he was happy that he was alive even though he was appropriately
depressed about losing his limbs.