A Texan man, George Pickering, has ended almost a year in prison for the desperate act of barricading himself in a hospital room for three hours in January 2015 and threatening with a gun those who wanted to enter.
This is not on the face of it very pro-life behaviour, and we are certainly not encouraging anyone to copy it. But the background to this dramatic gesture is that George's 27-year old son had suffered a massive stroke and had been diagnosed as brain dead. The hospital ordered his life support to be shut off, and arranged for his organs to be used for transplants.
George's certainty that they were moving too fast was justified when after three hours the doctors with the SWAT team (Special Weapons and Tactics) were amazed to see that his son, also called George, was showing signs of life and consciousness, making eye contact and squeezing his father's hand when asked. When hospital staff acknowledged these signs of life, George Sr. surrendered peacefully, was (rightly) arrested, convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and jailed.
The good news is that a year later, George Jr. has completely recovered and is now "the picture of health", while his father was out of jail in time for Christmas.
There are many less dramatic cases of people thought to be brain dead who subsequently recovered. Of course, it is sometimes right to withdraw 'excessive' life support with the right motive, whether or not the patient may still be alive. Yet when it comes to organ harvesting, it is horrifying to think that some donors may be not only alive but also conscious though non-reactive, unable to beg family and doctors not to set the process in motion (bearing in mind that at least some organs are taken from so-called 'beating-heart cadavers').
We should also spare a thought for other non-responsive patients who are acknowledged to be still alive: the supposedly permanently unconscious from whom, not medical treatment but even food and hydration are sometimes withdrawn – often with the express aim of ending their lives.