The wife of a brain-injured man in Louisiana wants to withdraw his nutrition and hydration in order to facilitate his death by dehydration and starvation. Joshua Barras suffered a brain injury over two years ago after a tragic suicide attempt. He is responsive and can be seen smiling and even singing in videos, but he is dependent on a feeding tube for nutrition and hydration. Life Legal has filed legal pleadings to ensure that Joshua continues to receive care, including food and water.
Joshua’s wife insists that he does not have any quality of life and says she had a dream that led her to believe her husband wants to die. She claims his condition is deteriorating, but a hospice facility found he was no longer eligible for hospice, as he is not declining at all, but is actually in excellent health. Since then, Joshua’s wife has been on a mission to end his life. She appeared on the Dr. Phil show last week to make the case for killing her husband.
Joshua and his wife were going through a divorce at the time of his injury.
Joshua’s mother, Kelly Barras, reached out to Bobby Schindler, sister of Terri Schiavo and President/Founder of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network. Bobby called Life Legal for help and we contacted a local attorney who is representing Kelly.
Even though euthanasia is illegal in every state, hospitals and nursing homes frequently resort to withholding nutrition and hydration in cases where patients are incapacitated and unable to express their health care wishes. We believe this is an unethical practice that should be unlawful.
Pope John Paul II addressed the provision of nutrition and hydration to severely brain-injured individuals in response to efforts by Terri Schiavo’s husband to end her life by dehydration and starvation. Pope John Paul II emphasized the full human dignity of such individuals and the moral duty of society to care for them: “I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory…”
This teaching has been reaffirmed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services.
“It is unfathomable that 16 years after the inhumane killing of Terri Schiavo a young man like Joshua Barras could be targeted for death solely because of his disability,” said Life Legal CEO Alexandra Snyder. “In any other context, death by dehydration and starvation is a crime against humanity. We will fight for Joshua’s right to be free from discrimination and for his right to life.”
“Josh is brain-injured and needs only basic care, including food and water, to live. His wife is threatening to deny Josh this basic human right, which would lead to his painful, horrific death by dehydration – the same barbaric death my sister Terri endured,” said Bobby Schindler. “All people, including the disabled, should not have to fear that their spouses may decide to impose a death sentence once caring for them has become an inconvenience.”
We strongly encourage people to execute an advance directive to express their wishes regarding medical care and treatment in the event they become incapacitated. Life Legal provides guidance on advance health care directives here.