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Removing Life Support

Removing life support is a hard choice to make. Your decision is not the cause of your loved one’s death. The disease or injury is.

A time may come when prolonging life is prolonging suffering. At that point, you may choose to consult with the doctor and ask that life support be removed. If you do, the health care team will keep the dying person comfortable until his or her life ends.

Removing the VentilatorHealthcare provider talking to man and woman.

Taking the breathing tube out relieves the discomfort it may have caused. Once off the machine, a patient may stop breathing. If a DNR order is in place, unconsciousness and death often follow quickly. In some cases, a patient may start breathing again on his or her own.

Stopping Food and Fluids

When the feeding tube is removed, death often follows in a few days. It is not painful. Most people go into a deep sleep before dying. Withholding food can be a hard decision. But a person very near death is not likely to feel hunger, and feeding them may actually increase their discomfort.

Removing IV Lines

IV lines can be used to provide many things. Ask the staff if you have any questions about the type of life support that you are stopping. Without antibiotics, for instance, an infection might cause death.

How You May Feel

It’s normal to feel a burden if you have to decide whether to remove life support. You may also feel guilty, sad, or afraid. Know that you have no power over death itself. You can only try to make the treatment choices your loved one would have made.

What Is “Brain Death”?

You may see a warm, lifelike body if a machine is pumping a patient’s blood and air. But if brain function is gone (called “brain death”) your loved one cannot recover. A second doctor confirms brain death before the person can be declared legally dead.

 

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