When?
Limits to Life-Sustaining Treatment


0. Sustaining even AFTER death has been declared

The ultimate aggressive posture would be to continue to support body systems even after death had been declared (or, perhaps, after it SHOULD have been declared - after the patient satisfied the medical criteria for death).

One situation in which this has sometimes been done is when the welfare of another person is at stake - pregnant women have sometimes had body systems sustained long enough for the fetus to develop to a point where it might be viable outside the womb.

Less dramatically, hospitals have sometimes kept a person on support systems for a few hours (perhaps even a day or two) until absent family members could travel to the site to say their goodbyes, or until arrangements can be made for organ donation.

In the How? section, you read about a young man who asked that his mother continue to be sustained after she had died because he believed that she would come back to life in three days. The hospital was not willing to honor his request. Do you think they should have honored it?

Created by Glenn C. Graber
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