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Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

Glossary continued...

Based on a term meaning "good death." ?e term traditionally has been used to refer to the hastening of a suffering person's death. "Mercy killing" is another term often used. Voluntary Active Euthanasia involves a physician engaging in an act to cause a patient's death, such as by giving a lethal injection, with the patient's full informed consent. Involuntary or Non-voluntary Active Euthanasia refers to an act to end a patient's life, without that patient's full informed consent.

Hospice Care
A program to deliver palliative care to individuals who are in the final stages of terminal illness. In addition to providing palliative care and personal support to the patient, hospice includes support for the patient's family while the patient is dying as well as bereavement support to the family.

Life-Sustaining Treatment
Treatments (medical procedures) that replace or support an essential bodily function (may also be called life support treatments). Life-sustaining treatments include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and hydration, dialysis, and certain other treatments.

Living Will
A type of advance directive in which an individual documents his or her wishes about future medical treatment should he or she be at the end of life and unable to communicate. It may also be called a "directive to physicians," "healthcare declaration," or "medical directive." ?e purpose of a living will is to guide family members and doctors in deciding how aggressively to use medical treatments to delay death.

Medical Power of Attorney
A document that allows an individual to appoint someone else to make decisions about his or her medical care if he or she is unable to communicate. It may also be called a healthcare proxy, medical power of attorney or appointment of a healthcare agent. ?e person appointed may be called a healthcare agent, surrogate, attorney-in-fact, or proxy.

Palliative Care
A comprehensive approach to treating serious illness that focuses on the physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs of the patient. Its goal is to achieve the best quality of life available to the patient by relieving suffering, controlling pain and symptoms, and enabling the patient to achieve maximum functional capacity. Respect for the patient's culture, beliefs, and values are an essential component. Palliative care is sometimes called comfort care.

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