The following commentary by Phil Lawler appeared November 24 on Catholic World News.

 

Boxer Hector Camacho died on Saturday, his doctor said:

His death was reported by Dr. Ernesto Torres, the director of the Centro Medico trauma center in Puerto Rico, who said Camacho had a heart attack and died a short time later after being taken off life support

This is confusing, because the same doctor had announced on Thursday that Camacho was “brain dead.” If “brain death” really is death, then the doctor appears to be saying that Camacho died twice, which is absurd.

Can a dead man have a heart attack? Would it be medically significant?

Camacho’s family agreed to turn off life-support systems after hearing the “brain dead” diagnosis. Naturally it was an anguishing decision. But as another news account has it:

Camacho’s condition deteriorated before his family opted to take him off life support.

Again there’s an absurdity here alongside the tragedy. A dead man’s condition can’t “deteriorate.” Medically speaking, death is as bad as it gets.

Come to think of it, what is “life support” for someone who is dead? Machines can mimic some of the natural processes of a living body, but at that point the machines “support” nothing; their work is pointless. It might have made sense in this case to unplug the machines after Camacho’s heart attack, if it was then evident that he was dead. But the doctor’s statement suggests that he died after the machines were unplugged (and two days after the doctor recommended unplugging them).

What was the cause of Hector Camacho’s death: a gunshot, a heart attack, or the removal of life-support systems? We can’t know the answer to that question until we know when he died. And frankly, we don’t.

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