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The Descendants—New Movie Sheds Light on Real Effects of Brain Injuries

Our Chicago injury attorneys help clients who suffer a wide range of problems caused by the negligence of others. In many more cases than not, those who did not act appropriately in any given situation will eventually decide that a settlement is the best course. When that occurs we work with our clients to reach the best result based on their goals. In other cases, no amicable settlement can be reached, and so the case proceeds to trial. At trial the specific evidence is presented which indicates the misconduct that took place and the harm suffered by the plaintiffs. In some cases there may be a separate “injury” phase, after liability has already been determined, where both sides present information only on the extent of the harm caused as a result of the negligence. For example, in the traumatic brain injury context, that may include the suffering of family members after losing a loved one as a result of the injury. These situations require jurors to truly get into the situation of the victims to properly gauge a fair award.

One new movie that has garnered much critical acclaim deals with this exact situation-a family coping with the consequences of a loved one who suffered a traumatic brain injury. The Descendants is led by George Clooney who plays the husband of a woman who falls into a deep coma after a skiing accident. The movie then proceeds to describe the ramifications for him and his family of two daughters. They are forced to grapple with the diagnosis that the likely outcome is not good, and they are likely to lose their loved one. This week the Sunny Observer explained how the movie tackles these subjects, indicating how few films ever delve deep into these issues which affect many residents.

Palliative care professionals explain that, like the movie, the consequences for those closest to the victims are intense, with entire lives changing in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, human perseverance is often underestimated, and many family members rise up and muster as much courage as necessary to deal with the aftermath. As one psychiatrist familiar with the situation explained, “the shock of the situation may keep people from fully grieving, and the parade of obligations and responsibilities may actually divert them from their deep emotions until weeks after a person has died.”

In the movie, the husband is forced to grapple with the claim that his wife’s lower and upper stem brain functions have not responded. The victim continues to breathe for days after the accident on her own. However, in the movie the woman’s living will indicates that no extraordinary measures should be taken to save her life. That means that she cannot be put on life support to maintain her breathing if it falters. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers know that some families face this exact situation, of being forced to watch as a loved one slowly loses the ability to breathe on their own after suffering a head injury. The emotional suffering for those family members is always difficult to quantify but undoubtedly intense.

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