About Life Support
Life support replaces or supports a failing body organ. In treatable or
curable conditions, life support is temporary until the body can resume
its normal function. Treatment may ease suffering, restore functioning
or improve a patient’s quality of life.
Putting a loved one on life support is a difficult and personal decision.
It is important that you talk with his or her doctor about the risks and
benefits. In situations where a cure may not be possible, life support
may cause suffering and pain, and this may lessen a person’s quality of life.
Commonly Used Life Support Terms
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR): CPR is an attempt to restart the heart and breathing when the heart has
stopped beating and a person has stopped breathing. Resuscitation typically
continues until the heart is beating on its own and the patient is either
breathing on their own or artificial breathing has been established.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR): After consideration by the patient or the patient’s decision maker
and discussion with the doctor, a decision may be made to “do not
attempt to resuscitate.” DNR is the compassionate choice that may
be appropriate for some patients. Overall care of the patient continues
to alleviate suffering and provide the best quality of life. Once the
doctor has written a DNR order in the patient’s record, no further
resuscitative efforts will be done.
Comfort Care and Hospice: There may come a point when restoring a patient to health is not possible.
A “comfort care” plan, or hospice care, refocuses on goals
of care for the patient so that quality of life is provided by relieving
suffering, controlling pain and maintaining the patient’s dignity.
Palliative Care: The goals of palliative care are to alleviate physical, emotional, and
spiritual suffering and provide patients with the best quality of life.
The patient’s multidisciplinary support team may include doctors,
nurses, social workers, therapists, and counselors who work to relieve
symptoms like pain, anxiety, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.