Convict who died and was resuscitated argues that his life sentence has been served

Originally published at:


If i pass out at work, someone calls 911, they bring me to ER, i am unresponsive, do they resuscitate me without question? do they operate on me without question, or do they have to find a relative to give permission?

I am really not aware of how this works other than in TV shows, but could he sue that they didn’t have permission to resuscitate him?

IANAL, but I think generally in the US, “do not resuscitate” is an opt-in matter.


Very much an opt in matter. And sometimes, even then…


This convict’s argument is absurd. A person’s life isn’t over until it’s actually over. If the dude is alive, then he is living the same life he has always lived. Experiencing momentary cessation of cardiac, pulmonary and neural functions does not mean he died then came back to life. Death is permanent, there is no return. If resuscitation is possible, then the person isn’t dead. They’re only dead when there is no chance of revival. This seems rather clear-cut to me.


Here’s what I am wondering. He is claiming that legally, he was dead, and therefore his pre-legal-death lifetime sentence was served. And everyone’s arguments about the absurdity are common sense. Of course he’s still alive, didn’t die, etc. BUT… we are talking about weird legal stuff here.

So, to land the bus, here’s what I’m thinking. If he legally died, was he legally processed for death? Does he need to be legally buried or legally creammated or some other legal process for his death to be actually registered legally? Legally removed from Social Security? I mean, it’s the damned law, so I am wondering about the technicalities here.


it’s the same in the UK. Generally life changing decisions are treated as opt-in, and you don’t get much more life changing than death.

About the only exception I can think of is if death is inevitable, in which case you would get end-of-life care


I hope Naomi Wolf writes a book about this.




I would think there’s prior case law. People presumed dead, who are declared legally dead, and then found to be alive.

Legally, they get un-dead after they are found alive. I am not sure if this is compulsory or not? But there has to be precedent.


Jon Snow approves.


He could be declared as an outlaw in the classic sense, but anyone would be free to kill him.


Right, this is a common trap for people who don’t realize that words can have different meanings in different contexts. He may have been medically dead but he wasn’t legally dead. And the legal definition predates the medical one and is intuitively and logically what everyone knows it to be.

There was no death certificate issued. None of the legal things that are triggered by death (ending of social security benefits, payout of life insurance, estate probate, etc.) happened. Likewise he wasn’t issued a birth certificate for being resuscitated.

Of course there are real legal issues as mentioned upthread for people who have been declared/presumed dead and turn out to be alive. But even then that is treated as a legal error: they were never actually dead, rather than treated as someone who came back to life.


Tattoos are not legal ADs nor POLST, which are the two ACP documents transferrable among institutions in the United States. The tattoo cannot be considered a wearable AD, as it does not include a witness or notary to complete the legal documentation.

Maybe one could get around the Notary Stamp issue through scarification. /s


You should have seen what happened when the lawyers told him the case will cost an arm and a leg.


If you were locked in for life, wouldn’t you give even an absurd argument a try? It might work, and if nothing else it will give you something to do. I think it was pretty clever trolling of the legal system.

I’m also pretty sure I read a science fiction story on a similar theme long ago, but I can’t remember any details.


This is the correct answer.


Sounds like you aren’t a fan of magical realism.

1 Like

Quite the contrary—I’ve even been published in a Borges journal! But my feelings about fiction don’t make me sympathetic to this guy’s argument.


There are definitions of corporeal death which WERE satisfied when this inmate died. The very fact that he required resuscitation may well imply that he satisfied one of these definitions, because it seems almost certain the condition that required resuscitation was that his heart had stopped. Possibly also he stopped breathing.

The idea that his argument is absurd (as well as the court’s opinion) seems predicated upon the assertion that a person only truly dies once. This may or not be true, but that is semantics. That inmate was dead as a doornail if he had no heartbeat, no respiration and was not resuscitated. He went through the process of dying. If no medical intervention would have occurred, he would remain dead.
But, medical intervention - done by the state - did occur. He was then brought back to life.

His body had indeed died. But his cells had not died. And because of that, he was reconstituted as a functioning organism through medical intervention.

The problem here is that medical death and legal death are very different things. Even medical death does not countenance verification of universal cell death. People are pronounced death when they have no heartbeat, no brain wave function, and they have stopped breathing on their own. I daresay there has never been a single case where a patient was not declared dead until all cell activity had ended.

And legal death is parochial. Let’s say the inmate was sentenced to death, and he was indeed put to death. What specific physical indicators would that particular institution in that particular state use to verify he was dead? And if he was found to fulfill those indicators, would it not mean his death sentence had been carried out?

So, this inmate - in state care - did die. And then the state revived him. That was their call, not his. Now he essentially is being required to fulfill a second life sentence. We do not allow the state to torture inmates by intentionally stopping their heart and then reviving them, because that would be cruel and unusual punishment. Why would we want to allow the same thing to occur unintentionally?