Opinion: Listen: An ICU physician on the moral dilemmas mechanical ventilators can raise

On the day in 1928 when the inventors of the iron lung wheeled their contraption into what is known today as Boston Children’s Hospital, they likely had one thing on their minds: saving the lives of children with polio. And that they did. For the first time in human history, the inability to breathe on one’s own stopped being an immediate death sentence.

But Philip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw Jr., were also aware of a darker side of these machines and their successors: people with persistent critical illnesses — like those with Covid-19 today — tethered to ventilators for weeks, if not longer, living in a “twilight existence” of being kept alive by a machine.

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Opinion: Listen: An ICU physician on the moral dilemmas mechanical ventilators can raise

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