Sometimes after injury or a long illness, the primary organs of the body no longer work properly without support. Your doctor may tell you that these organs will not repair themselves.
Medical care to prolong life can keep you alive when these organs stop working well.
Treatments to extend life can include the use of machines. This equipment does the work of the body organ. Examples include:
If you are near the end of your life or you have an illness that will not improve, you can choose what kind of treatment you want to receive.
You should know that removing the life support equipment does not end life: the illness or the injury is the cause of the end of life.
These can be hard choices for you and those who are close to you. There is no hard and fast rule about what you may choose. People's opinions and choices often change over time.
Talk to your health care providers about your choices. Other steps you can take to make sure your wishes are followed are:
As your life or health changes, you may also change your health care decisions. You can change or cancel an advanced care directive at any time.
You may serve as a health care agent or proxy for someone else. In that role you may have to make the decision to start or remove life support machines. It is a very hard decision to make.
If you need to make a decision about stopping treatment for a loved one:
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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