US Euthanasia Debate Resurfaces after Man Regains Consciousness

A US Gulf War veteran who was set to die in an Arizona hospital in a controversial euthanasia case regained complete consciousness on Tuesday.

A decision to pull the feeding tubes from Jesse Ramirez, 36, on 8 June had been reversed after a court case by his family members. The move has paid off now that the man is responding and is set to move to a rehabilitation centre.

"We have had a lot of miracles," said Betty Valenzuela, Ramirez's aunt, in the Arizona Republic. "He would have been gone."

On 30 May, Mr Ramirez was involved in a serious car accident in which he suffered multiple injuries and fell into a comatose state. He was put on feeding tubes through which he received nourishment and water.

Ten days later, the man's wife, Rebecca, 33, asked doctors to pull his feeding tubes after they explained that the accident would probably leave Mr Ramirez blind or in a vegetative state.

For five days, the hospital withheld sustenance from the injured man, but restored the tubes after the Alliance Defence Fund - an Arizona-based Christian law firm - filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr Ramirez's other family members.

On Tuesday, a settlement was reached in which all decision-making for the patient moved from wife Rebecca to a court-appointed guardian. Mr Ramirez will also be moved to a rehabilitation centre.

Mr Ramirez has now regained many of his faculties, including hugging and kissing, nodding his head, responding to voice commands, and knowing his own and his family's identity.

"The decision to withhold food and water was hasty and wrong under Arizona law," explained Byron Babione, a senior legal counsel for ADF who argued two weeks ago in defence of Mr Ramirez's life before an Arizona judge on behalf of Mr Ramirez's sister, Marlene.

"Jesse had only ten days - about 240 hours - before his feeding tube was removed," he added in a statement.

The incident is similar to a case involving Theresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo in Florida in 2005. She too was placed on feeding tubes and was eventually starved to death after authorities removed them. She had been in a vegetative state since 1990, however.

According to a report from Rebecca Ramirez, who was also in the Toyota SUV when it crashed, the accident was the result of a heated argument in the car between Mr and Mrs Ramirez about a man's phone number on Mrs Ramirez's phone. Mr Ramirez was allegedly suspicious of an affair.

After refusing to let his wife out of the car, Mrs Ramirez opened her door as if to jump, distracting Jesse which then led to the acident where the car flipped over and threw them both from the vehicle.

Police are still investigating these claims, however.

Some people have questioned Mrs Ramirez's motives in deciding to pull her husband's feeding tubes so early but Judith Morse, the court-appointed lawyer assigned to mediate the family, felt her concerns were sincere.

"I have no reason to think she doesn't have his best interests in mind," she explained in the Arizona Republic. "All the family members are doing what they think is best."

Others, meanwhile, are blaming the hospital, saying they should not have so quickly complied with Mrs Ramirez's demands, particularly in such distressing circumstances. The decision was rushed, they feel.

"Everyone deserves a chance to recover from an injury, and now Jesse has that chance," said Babione. "Jesse put his life on the line for us during the Gulf War. The least that should be done for Jesse and his family is to give him a chance to recover."