Life Sustaining Treatment - Patients & FamiliesLife sustaining treatment replaces or supports ailing bodily function. When people have treatable conditions, life support is used temporarily until the illness or disease can be stabilized and the body can resume normal functioning. At times, the body never regains the ability to function without life support or life-sustaining treatment.
Some commonly used life-sustaining treatment includes:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Intubation and mechanical ventilation
- Artificial hydration and nutrition (e.g. Long Term Feeding Tube Placement)
Given the rapid advances in medicine and technology, it is difficult to know all of the possible treatment choices in advance. This is why taking the time to clarify values, beliefs, and personal goals of medical care are so important.
When making decisions about life support, it is important to consider the following questions:
- Will the treatment make a difference?
- Do the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits?
- Is there hope for recovery? If so, what will life be like afterward?
- What do I value?
The distinction often is made between not starting treatment and stopping treatment. However, no legal or ethical difference exists between withholding and withdrawing a medical treatment in accordance with an individual’s wishes. If such a distinction existed in the clinical setting, a person might refuse treatment that could be beneficial out of fear that once started it could not be stopped.
It is legally and ethically appropriate to discontinue medical treatments that are no longer beneficial. It is the underlying disease, not the act of withdrawing treatment, which causes death.
When a patient is seriously ill, the patient may make decisions about life-sustaining treatment ahead of time when the patient is still able to make these decisions. These wishes can be transformed into medical orders and recorded on the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form.