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When do doctors stop life support?

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Doctors usually advise stopping life support when there is no hope for recovery -- your organs are no longer able to function on their own. Keeping the treatment going at that point may draw out the process of dying and may also be costly.

Choosing to remove life support usually means you'll die within hours or days. The timing depends on what treatment is stopped. People tend to stop breathing and die soon after a ventilator shuts off, though some do start breathing again on their own. If you're not getting in any fluids, you'll likely die within several days of your feeding tube removal. But you may survive for as long as 1 or 2 weeks.

When you're unconscious or not of sound mind, doctors and family members will decide when life support measures should stop. It's a hard decision, especially if you haven't previously discussed your end-of-life wishes with your family. Doctors encourage family members to focus on what they think their loved one would want.

It's important to remember that it's the underlying condition, not the removal of life support, that actually causes someone to die, and doctors will do all they can to keep your loved one comfortable.

From: What Is Life Support? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Canadian Virtual Hospice: "Nutrition."

Cleveland Clinic Health Library: "Understanding Life Support Measures."

Fairview Health Services: "Removing Life Support."

National Institutes of Health: "How Does a Ventilator Work?"

Pamela D. Portnoy-Saitta, DO, attending physician, emergency medicine, Island Emergency Medical Physicians.

Siegel, M. , 2009. Clinics in Chest Medicine

Society of Critical Care Medicine: "Life Support Choices."

Reviewed by William Blahd on July 14, 2017

SOURCES:

Canadian Virtual Hospice: "Nutrition."

Cleveland Clinic Health Library: "Understanding Life Support Measures."

Fairview Health Services: "Removing Life Support."

National Institutes of Health: "How Does a Ventilator Work?"

Pamela D. Portnoy-Saitta, DO, attending physician, emergency medicine, Island Emergency Medical Physicians.

Siegel, M. , 2009. Clinics in Chest Medicine

Society of Critical Care Medicine: "Life Support Choices."

Reviewed by William Blahd on July 14, 2017

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