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Abstract

It is common for health care providers to deal with the complex and difficult issue of withdrawing advanced life support. The patient is always the key source of authority in these decisions. The most important ingredient in end-of-life decision making is effective communication. It is important to try to ascertain what the patient thought about quality-of-life values before surrogate decisions can be made on the patient's behalf. The concepts of beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice are the foundation of ethical decision making. Numerous legal precedents have laid the groundwork for end-of-life decision making. Most state courts have supported withholding and withdrawing life support from patients who will not regain a reasonable quality of life. The recent Patient Self-Determination Act encourages patients to fill out advance directives that state their desires. When continued intensive care is futile, advanced life support should be withdrawn. However, a narrow definition of futility in this situation is the key, since the concept of futility could lead to inappropriate decisions. It is best to consider a situation futile when the patient is terminally ill, the condition is irreversible, and death is imminent. During the withdrawal of advanced life support, terminal or rapid weaning is preferable to extubation. Combinations of opiates, benzodiazepines, and other agents help provide comfort to patients who are suffering.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.med.52.1.79
2001-02-01
2024-06-25
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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