Benjamin Schreiber was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1997 after being convicted of first-degree murder.
A district court disagreed with his argument, and Schreiber took the case to the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Judge Amanda Potterfield of the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the lower court in an opinion issued on Wednesday.
"Schreiber is either alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is dead, in which case this appeal is moot", the court said in a six-page ruling.
Adding a nail to Schreiber's legal coffin, the court said the sentence he is serving in the Iowa State Penitentiary will not end until a medical examiner declares him dead. He was convicted in the bludgeoning death that year of a 39-year-old man in a plot carried out with the man's girlfriend.
Should a life sentence end when your heart stops? Instead, they zeroed in on what "life in prison" means. Doctors rushed to his aid and restarted his heart five times, effectively bringing him back from death.
The legislature did not "intend to set criminal defendants free whenever medical procedures during their incarceration lead to their resuscitation by medical professionals", Potterfield wrote. It's unclear whether Schreiber plans to take the case to a higher court. According to court records obtained by the Des Moines Register, hospital staffers made the decision after conferring with Schreiber's brother, who only consented to giving him medicine to ease his pain.
He didn't fare any better there when the court ruled earlier this week.
Schreiber is being held for the rest of his natural life at the Iowa State Penitentiary.
Schreiber's attorney has not commented on what his client wants to do next.
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