Limits to Life-Sustaining Treatment

5. Intolerable pain

The staff is fairly confident that the patient will "pull through," despite the extensive burns all over her body. Based on a careful evaluation of the burns and a review of the literature about similar cases, they would rate her chances of survival as 50%-60%. They acknowledge that the road will not be easy. Since much of her skin was burned away, she is very prone to infection. She will have to be bathed in antiseptic one or more times per day to wash away infectious tissue, and this will probably continue for weeks and months until skin grafts to be placed at key points on her body cover her entirely. These baths are excruciatingly painful; yet they must be continued to stave off infection.

She decides that she does not want to continue the antiseptic baths. "I cannot endure this for months! Discontinue the baths, give me medicines to keep me as comfortable as possible as infections set in, and let nature take its course," she says.

It is clear that she has put a lot of thought into this decision Would you try to talk her out of her decision?

What if she asked you to help her take a more active measure to end her life instead of having to wait until systemic infection did her in?

Created by Glenn C. Graber
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