The Friday Four seeks to highlight some of the people behind some of the interesting stories I stumble upon during my daily search for relevant content. I'm not going to lie to you. This is not the most uplifting edition in The Friday Four's brief (BUT ILLUSTRIOUS) history. Nevertheless, we forge ahead... 

1. Dr. Pervaiz Chaudhry –- It recently came to light that the Fresno-based surgeon is accused of leaving Community Regional Medical Center during a 72-year-old patient's heart procedure. Silvino Perez is in a vegetative state and on life support, and his family holds Chaudhry and the hospital directly responsible for what happened. According to family member Cristobal Arteaga, the situation was brought to the family's attention when an OR nurse made an anonymous call and informed them that Chaudhry left in the middle of the operation to attend a luncheon. Furthermore, according to several news outlets, it looks like the State Department of Health handed out a "significant penalty" to the hospital for decisions it says put Perez at risk.

I can't imagine the full details of what transpired will ever be known by the general public. Therefore, it's impossible to say just how the decisions made in the OR that day by Chaudhry (and others) affected the outcome of the procedure and contributed to the current state of Perez's health. Nevertheless, the fallout from this situation is a significant black mark on the reputations of both Chaudhry and Community Regional Medical Center. Simply stated, it looks like this unfortunate situation will not result in a satisfying resolution for any of the parties involved.

2. Marlise Munoz -- The tragic story of Marlise Munoz has raised questions about morality, ethics, and the power of end-of-life wishes. On Nov. 26, her husband, Erick, found her unconscious in her North Texas home.  While her exact condition is still unknown, Marlise Munoz is now brain-dead and on life support. Complicating matters is the fact that she was 14 weeks pregnant when she was hospitalized. A state law requires Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital (JPS) to keep Marlise Munoz alive because she is pregnant, even though the condition of her fetus is unclear. Erick Munoz, however, filed a lawsuit because the hospital's efforts to treat Marlise Munoz and keep her on life support is against the family's wishes. Furthermore, he maintains the state law doesn't apply because she is legally and medically dead.

 A recent Associated Press article quotes the lawsuit:

"Marlise Munoz is dead, and she gave clear instructions to her husband and family — Marlise was not to remain on any type of artificial 'life sustaining treatment,' ventilators or the like. There is no reason JPS should be allowed to continue treatment on Marlise Munoz's dead body, and this court should order JPS to immediately discontinue such."

SMU Law Professor and Medical Ethicist Tom Mayo talks with CBS News about the situation in the video below:

3. Robert Epperson –- Just prior to Thanksgiving of this year, 44-year-old Robert Epperson was diagnosed with pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP). The disease causes protein and lipid material to build up in a person's air sacs. Unable to say a full sentence without gasping for air and struggling to find even the smallest amount of energy, he was worried no treatment would alleviate the devastating symptoms of his condition. However, a unique "lung-washing" procedure he recently underwent at the Cleveland Clinic looks like it was exactly what was needed for Epperson to breathe easier once again. It called for doctors to use saline solution to literally wash one lung at a time. Meanwhile, Epperson's other lung handled all of his breathing during the procedure. Doctors drained approximately 30 liters out of Epperson to ensure the excess surfactant was cleared from his air spaces. Video of the procedure can be seen below:

4. Judge Nan Nash –- Every once in a great while, a story surfaces and catches me COMPLETELY off guard. Such was the case when news broke that a New Mexico judge’s ruling made it possible for competent, terminally ill patients to seek their doctor’s assistance in procuring prescription drugs to end their lives on their own terms. Second Judicial Judge Nan Nash, your landmark ruling garnered my undivided attention for about 10 or 15 minutes earlier this week. Here’s Nash explanation:

"This court cannot envision a right more fundamental, more private or more integral to the liberty, safety, and happiness of a New Mexican than the right of a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying.”

Nash also ruled that doctors who provide assistance could not be charged with a crime under the New Mexico’s assisted suicide law, which classifies it as a fourth-degree felony.

I have no desire to weigh in on my personal feelings toward physician-assisted suicide. That's not why I found the story so intriguing. I'm more interested to see just how this will play out in a court of law over the course of the coming weeks and months. At this time, it looks like the New Mexico Attorney General's Office is discussing the possibility of an appeal. To be continued, I suppose.

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