- (Photo: Reuters / Ethan Miller)
Jeff Conaway, famous for his roles in “Taxi” and “Grease,” was taken off his life-support machine on Thursday – a decision made by his family members.
The 60-year-old actor was hospitalized earlier in May after he was found unconscious in his home for what at the time, was described to be a possible prescription pill overdose.
Later, celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky, who treated Conaway on “Celebrity Rehab,” revealed on his twitter that the actor was actually suffering from pneumonia and sepsis, a possibly deadly blood infection.
Pinsky also clarified that Conaway was in a medically induced coma, not in comatose like his manager had asserted, and on a Propafol drip.
A source from RadarOnline stated that “there [was] no evidence that Jeff intentionally took an overdose of pills, period.”
“Jeff likely aspirated one of the pills into his lungs, prompting the pneumonia that he is now suffering from.”
Doctors told Conaway’s family that he had no brain function ever since he was brought into the hospital.
However, Phil Brock, the actor’s manager, shared earlier with Reuters that the actor did turn his head briefly a few weeks ago, when former co-star Marilu Henner was talking to him during her visit.
Both Henner and Tony Danza, who worked with Conaway in “Taxi,” held a bedside vigil for their friend, encouraging him to fight for life and prove to everyone that he wanted to get sober.
“In the last several weeks before he got sick, he was trying to get sober, and was taking getting sober very seriously,” the source told Radar. Danza was also helping his former co-star get straight as well.
But with pre-existing illnesses, still recovering from a near-fatal accident at his Los Angeles home last year where he suffered from a neck fracture and broken hip, the source added, “It is so hard for Jeff because of physical ailments that he suffers from that require pain medication, which unfortunately, he is also addicted to.”
With the feeding tube removed, the ventilator, which was breathing for the star, was scheduled to be removed by the afternoon.
“Jeff is in no pain whatsoever,” said a friend to Radar. “No measures will be made to try and revive him once the breathing tube is removed.”
“Jeff has remained unconscious and is unaware of what is going on.”
Having fought with cocaine, alcohol, and painkiller addiction since he was a teenager, Conaway appeared in 2008 on the VH1 reality series entitled “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
It was on the show that he revealed thoughts of suicide and during group sessions described his unstable childhood, confessing he was a victim of pedophiles and child pornographers when he was only 7 years old.
With John Travolta’s support, Conaway also took courses from the Church of Scientology to deal with his drug problem and depression, which unfortunately was not enough.
“Putting aside his demons,” Brock told Reuters, “Jeff is the nicest, kindest, gentlest soul.”
“He’s a wonderful man, which makes it doubly sad that he is unable to conquer drugs. As a human being, he’s the person who’d literally give the shirt off his back for someone.”
It is unknown how the former “Grease” star will cope when the machine is switched off, Radar reports.
A largely debated issue in the Christian community, the right to physician-assisted death continues to be argued.
However, most evangelicals believe that the removal of life support is not euthanasia where the patient is not killed by switching the machine off, but by the underlying disease.
The National Association of Evangelicals affirms that in cases where extensive brain injury has occurred and there is clear medical indication that the patient has suffered brain death (permanent unconscious state), no medical treatment can reverse the process.
The group also emphasizes that brain death is not the equivalent of a coma; while a patient may awaken from a coma, he or she cannot awaken from brain death.
Removal of any extraordinary life support at that time is purported to be morally appropriate, and under such circumstances, appropriate action is best taken from a signed “living will.”
If there is no “living will” then the decision to withdraw life support should be made by the family and/or closest friends in consultation with a member of the clergy and the medical staff.
NAE acknowledges that the withdrawal of life support systems is an emotional and difficult issue. However, the group states that medical treatment that serves only to prolong the dying process has little value and that it is better that the dying process be allowed to continue and the patient permitted to die in such cases.